9.05.2008

Coldwater by Mardi McConnochie

It would seem I've been reading this book forever. I used to record the start and completion dates of each book I read, but that became too tedious. Too often, I would start a new book when I was away from my reading journal and have to try to recreate the moment of beginning in some false way. So now, I just begin each year with a new list, and it provides an adequate way to review my reading. The one loss in that choice, though, is the interesting point of reference it provides to see that it took me only 2 days to complete a given book while it might take 2 months to complete another. This book, Coldwater, is one that has dragged on - much like the inexorable tide the title refers to, this book has persisted. But today I decided to forgo grading for a brief time just to get this book off my nightstand.

I must admit that I bought this book at TJ Maxx for $3.99. How high could my expectations be, really? However, as a student of literature and an admirer of the Brontes, I was naturally intrigued. And though all the elements of good storytelling seemed to be there, I could not find my way to an appreciation of this book. I admire the creative interweaving of ideas that lead to the book, but there was a definite disconnect between the intention and the outcome for this reader.

Barbara Kingsolver once said that she has become increasingly impatient with mediocre entertainments - desiring instead books that "realign my vision." Here is yet another example of how Kingsolver speaks for me. I can't find any significant or outrageous failing in this book. The characters had depth, the story was fairly compelling, the research was complete, the language was complex (although a bit overwrought at times), but it did nothing to "realign my vision."

Ever since I was young, I have loved the library. Not just the books, but the physical building that houses so many of them. Woven throughout that abiding love of libraries, though, is an anxiety - a pressure reminding me that no matter how furiously I consume the written word, I will never be able to read them all. And that honestly bothers me. Logically, I'm able to recognize that many of the books in any given library wouldn't even interest me. But the anxiety persists. Perhaps it's because I'm still suffering from a sordid disease that makes it nearly impossible for me to discard a book once begun (even one I am not enjoying). I went through a period where I could set aside a book for another time, and returning to those books later has brought me some of the greatest moments of reading pleasure (Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible was one of these for me). But this time, I couldn't just stop. And I think I know why. I was only reading it to get rid of it. I knew it wouldn't be one to make it to my permanent collection, and I wanted to be able to take it to the local used book store. You may be asking yourself, "Why didn't you just take it without reading it? Why waste your time?" Something in me cannot let a book go knowingly out of my possession without reading it first. What if I was wrong? What if it was a great hidden literary treasure? What if it did make me see the world in entirely new ways?

Alas, it did not.

So, here I've posted at great length about a book and told you nothing about it. But if you want to read it, just head to the McKay Books in Chattanooga in the next week or so. My copy will be sitting there waiting for you.