Thursday, February 4, 2010

Nobel or not, I'm finished with Pamuk

Call me a philistine, I'm sorry. I know that I have a good brain, though rustier than it used to be certainly, but, I have listened to 10 out of 17 discs from The Museum of Innocence and, though many reviews do admit that the novel lags in the middle and that one should hang in there, I have to admit, I just can't walk that far! I try with all my heart to get my three miles in per day but listening to this disheartening and depressing novel makes the walk seem like forever.

Don't get me wrong, the language is exquisite, truly, and I love learning about the social milieu of Turkey and I'm not immune to the anguish of an obsessive love affair, though long in the past, thank goodness, but.......I've long wanted to read Orhan Pamuk. In fact, I had considered one of his novels for a book discussion. From all I had read about his latest novel, I thought it might be assessible and interesting. The story of a Turkish man, Kemal, (or maybe Mr. Pamuk), with all the money and prestige that one could humanly desire, with the world by the tail including a lovely fiancee of a good family with whom he has what outsiders would see as an ideal relationship until, one fateful day, they walk by a shop where Sibel admires a handbag in the window. In the spirit of love, Kemal returns to the store to purchase said handbag and surprise his love, when he recognizes and agonizes over the beauty of the shopgirl, a distant cousin of dubious reputation, named Fusun. He purchases the purse which ends up being a fake, obviously of significance but of what exactly?

The inevitable happens and Kemal and Fusun begin a love affair which readers understand at once will lead to nothing but disaster. It's just that the disaster takes so long to resolve itself! One learns throughout the novel of the not so dated mores which admonish that a single woman who has lost her virginity is a ruined piece of goods. Kemal then is anguished that he has spoiled his cousin for anyone else and yet, because of their social distance and his impending marriage, he cannot have her, or does not have the courage, to claim her for himself. The book is actually a narrated tour of Kemal's museum of items that remind him of time spent with Fusun. Each item she ever touched, down to a matchbook or a glass, is dated and itemized as Kemal dreams of the ideal love which has been lost to him forever.

But, was it truly love? That's the question I kept asking myself as I listened to this novel play out. Is the author fooling himself? Does possession equal love? Will he ever move on and make a life for himself? Three quarters of the way through this novel, I just no longer cared. I saw a selfish man incapable of  thinking of anyone but himself. If anyone out there reading this has plugged away and found the light at the end of the tunnel I'd love to hear from you. I'm more than willing to admit I'm wrong. I may go back to the museum some day to see, but right now I have so many books waiting for my time that I just can't proceed. I worry that I'm too fussy and that no one will want to read my reviews anymore. I worry that Barbara Hoffert at Library Journal will give up on me. I worry that my taste has gone South, but shouldn't reading be a pleasure even when it hurts?

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