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Is there anyone else on here who didn't love The Book Thief?

(265 Posts)
TunipTheVegedude Sun 07-Jul-13 20:54:58

I was told to persevere with it and I'm now 63% through and it's annoying me more than ever.
I'm finding it pretentious and dull and while some of the characters are fine, the girl is totally unconvincing - she reads like someone has sat down and decided on some interesting characteristics to give her ('I know! I'll make her good at fighting and football!') rather than the character growing naturally.
Is it going to get better in the last 37%?

Hullygully Mon 08-Jul-13 16:23:15

I couldn't get past the first paragraph

Intensely irritating and twee

BOF Mon 08-Jul-13 16:23:25

Absolutely. I'm all about the ivory tower.

LRDLearningKnigaBook Mon 08-Jul-13 16:24:32

Is that an ivory tower, or are you just pleased to see me?

I'll get my coat.

Hullygully Mon 08-Jul-13 16:25:36

<knock's Boffy's mortar board across the quad>

Hullygully Mon 08-Jul-13 16:26:12


dear lord

please forgive that apostrophe

Trills Mon 08-Jul-13 16:27:53

I enjoy teenage books, if they are good ones, and I think there are many more good ones about now than when I was a teenager.

LRDLearningKnigaBook Mon 08-Jul-13 16:28:45

It's fine, hully. In fact in the ancient proto-Anatolian such apostrophes were de rigueur, and it is awfully johnny-come-lately to object to them.

So I hear from Prof Bof, anyway.

LRDLearningKnigaBook Mon 08-Jul-13 16:29:36

Cross posted with a serious point. blush

I agree trills. I think there is a lot of brilliant writing for teenagers around. In fact I think it's a pity MN seems only to have adult fiction and children's fiction - unless I'm missing the YA section?

BOF Mon 08-Jul-13 16:29:43

A friend of mine who writes had a blog post I'd like to share, as it sums up my feelings:

"And people should read books. Books are good.

But many are intimidated. One of the reasons people are put off reading is snobbery. You know, the snobbery that says opera and lacrosse and Pinot Noir and jazz fusion and quails' eggs and literary fiction are for certain types of people and them alone?

There is something innately snobby about the world of books. There is the snobbery of literary over genre, of adult books over children's, of seriousness over comedy, of reality over fantasy, of Martin Amis over Stephen King. And it is unhealthy. If books ever die, snobbery would be standing over the corpse.

So here is my message to book snobs:

1. People should never be made to feel bad about what they are reading. People who feel bad about reading will stop reading.

2. Snobbery leads to worse books. Pretentious writing and pretentious reading. Books as exclusive members clubs. Narrow genres. No inter-breeding. All that fascist nonsense that leads commercial writers to think it is okay to be lazy with words and for literary writers to think it is okay to be lazy with story.

3. If something is popular it can still be good. Just ask Shakespeare. Or the Beatles. Or peanut butter.

4. Get over the genre thing. The art world accepted that an artist could take from anywhere he or she wanted a long time ago. Roy Lichtenstein could turn comic strips into masterpieces back in 1961. Intelligence is not a question of subject but approach.

5. It is harder to be funny than to be serious. For instance, this is a serious sentence: 'After dinner, Alistair roamed the formal garden behind this unfamiliar house, wishing he had never betrayed Lorelei's trust.' That took me eight seconds to write. And yet I've been trying to write a funny sentence for three hours now, and I'm getting hungry.

6. Many of the greatest writers have been children's writers.

7. It is easy to say something to people who are exactly like you. A bigger challenge lies in locating that universal piece of all of us that wants to be wowed, and brought together by a great story. There isn't a human in the world who wouldn't enter the Sistine Chapel and not want to look up. Does that make Michelangelo a low-brow populist?

8. It does not matter about who the author is. The only thing a book should be judged on is the words inside.

9. Martin Amis once moaned on the radio that there were too many writers talking across the table to their readers rather than down to them. This was the point I went off Martin Amis.

10. You don't have to be serious about something to be serious about something.

11. You don't have to be realistic to be true.

12. You are one of 7,000,000,000 people in the world. You can never be above all of them. But you can be happy to belong.

13. The only people who fear people understanding what they are saying are people who have nothing really to say.

14. Books are not better for being misunderstood, any more than a building is better for having no door.

15. Shakespeare didn't go to university, and spelt his name six different ways. He also told jokes. (Bad ones, true, but you can't knock him for trying.)

16. Avoiding plot doesn't automatically make you clever. (See: Greene, Tolstoy, Shakespeare.)

17. Freedom is a process of knocking down walls. Tyranny is a process of building them.

18. There can be as much beauty in short (words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters) as long. Sparrows fly higher than peacocks.

19. Snobs are suckers, because they have superficial prejudices.

20. The book I am least proud of, that I didn't work hard enough on, was my most ostentatiously highbrow one.

21. Reading a certain book doesn't make you more intelligent any more than drinking absinthe makes you Van Gogh. It's how you read, as much as what you read.

22. Never make someone feel bad for not having read or not read something. Books are there to heal, not hurt.

23. Imagination is play. Snobbery is the opposite of play.

24. I used to be a snob. It made me unhappy.

25. Simple isn't always stupid. When I write a first draft it is complicated. There is mess. The second and third and fifteenth drafts try and get it to make sense, to trim away the frayed edges.

26. Stephen King was right. Books are 'portable magic'. And everyone loves magic.

27. Inclusion is harder than exclusion. Just ask a politician.

28. The brain can absorb many things. So can a novel.

29. For me, personally, the point of writing is to connect me to this world, to my fellow humans. We are all miles apart. We have no real means of connecting except via language. And the deepest form of language is storytelling.

30. The greatest stories appeal to our deepest selves, the parts of us snobbery can't reach, the parts that connect the child to the adult and the brain to the heart and reality to dreams. Stories, at their essence, are enemies of snobbery. And a book snob is the enemy of the book."

TunipTheVegedude Mon 08-Jul-13 16:31:50

Definitely, Trills. The quality of the writers who write for teens now is phenomenal. It's not surprising so many YA books have crossed over to adult readers.

Hullygully Mon 08-Jul-13 16:32:00

yeah but the Book Thief is still shite innit

Hullygully Mon 08-Jul-13 16:32:51

shite is shite, boffy

if it looks like shite, smells like shite, has shite sentences, construction, characterisations, story etc.

LRDLearningKnigaBook Mon 08-Jul-13 16:32:51

Amen to that, BOF.

Hullygully Mon 08-Jul-13 16:34:20

I would agree that accessible does not equal lowbrow, but not that all reading is of equal worth.

No way no how no no

nenevomito Mon 08-Jul-13 16:34:25

I'm reading Spongebob goes Jellyfishing at the moment.

BOF Mon 08-Jul-13 16:37:33

Yes, shite is shite. But I still find it rude and bizarrely up one's own arse to loudly dismiss the taste of people one clearly considers to be intellectual amœbae.

Unless it's about 50 Shades Of Grey, of course.

LRDLearningKnigaBook Mon 08-Jul-13 16:37:40

Regrettably, that might go in the 'not so highbrow' pile, baby. grin

But I agree with hully. Everything isn't equally good, but dismissing something because of it's genre or because it was written for the YA market just seems mean-spirited to me.

FWIW I can't get into Book Thief at all - I'd like to say I loved it but I had a look in Waterstones earlier and it makes me itch just flipping through it. I'm entirely willing to believe that's me, though.

Hullygully Mon 08-Jul-13 16:39:32

I prefer Bakhtin's definition of genre.

LRDLearningKnigaBook Mon 08-Jul-13 16:42:49

Which is?

I will admit I have read quite a lot of Bakhtin and got DH to explain it to me when I suspect the translation of being piss-poor, and I still have no clue what he might have said or meant about genre.

I liked the bit where he talked about piss-ups having cultural significance as 'carnivalesque' episodes. :-)

HomeHelpMeGawd Mon 08-Jul-13 16:44:02

If you'd like to read other books about the Holocaust, I've always thought that Maus by Art Spiegelman and The Last of the Just by Andre Schwarz Bart are staggeringly good.

TunipTheVegedude Mon 08-Jul-13 16:44:34

I just went off to Google and couldn't make head or tail of it blush
<returns with relief to well-thumbed copy of Twilight>

Hullygully Mon 08-Jul-13 16:44:46

Put simply, genre, said Medvedev, “is a specific way of visualising a given part of reality,” It is not a generative grammar, it cannot be broken down and analysed into determinable component parts, but is, as Bakhtin described it, a “form-shaping ideology,” a way of seeing the world that develops as a result of the author’s experience of the world.

(Paraphrased from me)

TunipTheVegedude Mon 08-Jul-13 16:45:21

Yes, Maus is brilliant.

Hullygully Mon 08-Jul-13 16:45:25

Soz, Medvedev is in there because Bakhtin built on his concept.

LRDLearningKnigaBook Mon 08-Jul-13 16:46:20

Yeah, that doesn't help me. Not even a teeny bit.

Put simply, I think it's a bollocksy way of over-reifying parlour-game attempts to categorise things.

But excuse me if you think it's brilliant. I'm sure you're right.

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