My mind is determined to reject any text of late that fails to elicit a strong, immediate reaction.
The casualties so far: Pattern Recognition (William Gibson), C (Tom McCarthy).
Both novels are full of rich language, a fully-powered plot, elegant construction (or so I thought I could deduce). But every time I attempted to apply my mind to the page, my brain would begin shoveling out the information as fast as it flowed in. I absorbed nothing.
I was about to diagnose myself as the intellectual equivalent of an oafish lout but I managed to finish The Big Short, Michael Lewis' treatise on the causes behind the 2008 financial crisis (precipitated by the overextension of subprime lending).
It is easy to discern that The Big Short is a vehicle for information. This is a very clean situation.
I can't abide by fiction as pure reflection upon form, whether this is the form of the novel (meta) or the shape of the world. Verve is always nice in a novel, but I'm not quibbling over being denied a good cry. I am more than willing to bend my mind to something, but I want more than elegant packaging, intricately wrapped.
There always seems to be a quality to good writing. Hideous darkness (House of Leaves). Pure emptiness (The Outsider). Transcendent sensation (Lady Chatterley's Lover).
I used to be in love with Lady Chatterley's Lover because I believed it opened a door to my real self (I know, right). I sat inside myself while reading the book and I felt like I could see for miles.
But I'm starting to think it's not the unique quality of the book that's important, it's what the book's tapped into to unlock that quality.
Heidegger says (to the best of my memory) that humans are essentially Being-With. We exist in relation to other entities (humans, objects), in terms of possibility of interaction. Dasein, or "I," the unique self, can only exist uniquely in Being-Towards-Death. Death is the only truly individual experience a person can have.
This is terrible and unsettling, but let's say for the sake of argument that a good book gives us that feared look into the void. We want to look, but we want a good vehicle to take us there, and temporarily, and in the guise of being "literature," which is a construct saturated in Others.
A unique understanding of the world is part of this guise. Every understanding is relational, and un-owned. The true book acknowledges the packaging and uses it as a way to inch towards the void. This is why we don't read such a book, we fall into it. We live there; the disassociation from the world makes the experience of reading otherworldly. Then we're absorbed back into the public consciousness. We long for and loathe what's on the other side of the schism - I don't want to live with what can't be known either. But I still want to look, and see perhaps a little, by reading.