8.06.2011

TPR Challenge #13 - Orhan Pamuk's Snow

Unbelievable.  For approximately a year, I've been singing the praises of this Paris Review interviews project (dubbed the TPR Challenge) - it has introduced me to new authors (hello, Paul Auster!) and reunited me with old favorites (God bless you, Elizabeth Bishop) and generally advanced my reading in a beautiful way.

Then, along came Orhan Pamuk and Snow. Snow was July's pick for The Wolves online reading group.  See This Book and I Could Be Friends and Evening All Afternoon for some additional thoughts.  My first post on the book acknowledged my slow progress and general lack of enthusiasm but held out some morsel of hope for the end.  Then, when the end failed to add much to the experience, I clung to the shred of hope that the TPR interview would enlighten me and make me see the book and its author through new eyes.  Unfortunately, it did not.  The interview was actually more boring than the book.  The book at least had the new external information to process - the religious and political conflicts, the uncertainty and drama of the "coup", the tenuous relationship with reality that both Ka and the narrator, Orhan, maintain.  The interview was unabashed navel-gazing on the part of the author and left a decidedly sour taste in my mouth. 

Because I am almost always unable to set aside these underwhelming books, I look for the few tidbits that I can say make the experience worth having, and there are a few.  I was surprised to find this astute statement almost three hundred pages in:
"Mankind's greatest error," continued the young Kurd, "the biggest deception of the past thousand years is this: to confound poverty with stupidity. ... People might feel sorry for a man who's fallen on hard times, but when an entire nation is poor, the rest of the world assumes that all its people must be brainless, lazy, dirty, clumsy fools." (275-276)
What a gorgeous assessment and indictment of so many of our attitudes.  Substitute "an entire nation" with any of the minority racial or ethnic groups in America, and it works just as well as a domestic observation.

The interview offered this bit about the discipline of writing:
When I'm traveling, and not alone at my desk, after a while I get depressed.  I'm happy when I'm alone in a room and inventing.  More than a commitment to the art or to the craft, which I am devoted to, it is a commitment to being alone in a room.  ... I need solitary hours at a desk with good paper and a fountain pen like some people need a pill for their health.  I am committed to these rituals. (395-396)
Disturbingly, the interview also revealed that Pamuk thought Snow was funny.
When people say it's bleak, I ask them Isn't it funny?  I think there is a lot of humor in it.  At least that was my intention. (395)
I don't recall the humor, Pamuk.  Sorry 'bout that.  Reader error, I'm sure.  And I'm sure this relative failure of a TPR read is only because it was unlucky #13.  Let's hope 14 puts us back on track.

1 comment:

  1. Funny? Not seeing it. Could not finish the freaking thing in spite of my best efforts. Once Richard threw in the towel, I quickly followed suit. Admire your ability to stick with it and looking for those tidbits. I gave it away. :)

    ReplyDelete

I love a good conversation, even (or especially) one that gets heated, so fire away! I try to respond to all in a timely manner.