Monday, June 18, 2007

The Feast of Love

Ok...I'm going to start this post by posting something from the author's website:
The Feast of Love is just that--a sumptuous work of fiction about the thing that most distracts and delights us. In a re-imagined Midsummer Night's Dream, men and women speak of and desire their ideal mates; parents seek out their lost children; adult children try to come to terms with their own parents and, in some cases, find new ones.
In vignettes both comic and sexy, the owner of a coffee shop recalls the day his first wife seemed to achieve a moment of simple perfection, while she remembers the women's softball game during which she was stricken by the beauty of the shortstop. A young couple spends hours at the coffee shop fueling the idea of their fierce love. A professor of philosophy, stopping by for a cup of coffee, makes a valiant attempt to explain what he knows to be the inexplicable workings of the human heart. Their voices resonate with each other--disparate people joined by the meanderings of love--and come together in a tapestry that depicts the most irresistible arena of life.

Now I'll tell you why this is a load of crap. I picked up this book because it was a finalist for the National Book Award and thought, after reading a lot of reviews and doing some dorky research on it, that it sounded interesting and like a story I might like to read. So I started. Right off the bat I didn't love the writing, though I thought it might be something I just had to get used to (I was wrong). It was choppy and disconnected, and the dialogue between characters was completely unrealistic. People simply do not talk the way these characters did. And that bugged me.

But what really bugged me is that I found myself not caring about any of these characters - they were all very one dimensional, though you got the idea that the author thought he was creating very deep, complex, and complete characters. I did not find this to be the case. They all had a "role" in this book and, other than fulfilling that "role", they weren't really very interesting. I like the idea of books and movies that have several stories going on that all intertwine at some point - unfortunately, I liken this book to the movie Babel - a great idea, in theory, but poorly executed.

This was supposed to tell the story of love in all of its various forms, and what we do (and don't do) for it. But when you get to the last page and read those last words you're left feeling... well, unfulfilled. Perhaps I was expecting too much from this book, or perhaps it was one of those situations where it just wasn't the right time for me to be reading it. But I got the distinct feeling that it was trying to be deep and meaningful for the sake of being deep and meaningful. The way I described it to Mark was like this: If you were reading this book in a literature class, I'm sure the professor, and other students, would be finding all sorts of deep meaning behind the actions of the characters, and the ways in which they interacted with each other. But I think searching for that meaning is giving the book too much credit. I think sometimes people just search for meaning in a book because they can't believe that it's just not a very good book. In my opinion, if the book is truly powerful, and really does evoke these emotions and deep thoughts out of you, it's on a very innate level. You simply feel it, you simply get it. And with this novel, you just don't do either. Or at least I didn't.

So, that's a big thumbs down from me. Maybe you all would have a different take; but I have a feeling you'd all walk away feeling a bit robbed....of time.

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