Sunday, November 21, 2010

What the Heck?

The Night Bookmobile is a graphic novel by Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler's Wife, a novel I really liked.  Some people have called it overhyped, and I can see that, but I found it very thoughtful love story about how much control love has in our lives, and how much adversity a relationship can handle.  Like I said, I really liked The Time Traveler's Wife.

I kind of didn't not like The Night Bookmobile, but I don't think I really liked it.  I'm pretty sure I was getting a lecture from an author whose books I like, the upshot of which was "you probably read too much." 

Alexandra is wandering the city close to dawn after a fight with her boyfriend when she stumbles upon a Winnebago full of books and the odd librarian running it.  It turns out that every book in the Night Bookmobile is one Alexandra has read--it is a full catalog of her reading life, including journals, appliance manuals, and other ephemera.  Sunrise comes all too soon, and she begs to join the librarian on his rounds, but he shakes his head and drives off.  Over the rest of her life, she encounters the library several more times, and spends many more hours looking for it. 

It's a slight book, more of a short story than a novel.  And it's kind of a sweet story--what obsessive reader wouldn't find it fascinating to browse shelves devoted entirely to his or her own reading life?  It's like looking through your own photo albums. 

But in spite of this interesting observation, the point the story seems to be making is that this might not be a great thing.  Are you wasting the time and energy that you might spend connecting with other people?  It doesn't ask if the fantasy worlds of books are worth it--it's not about the worlds in the books.  It's about the sheer fact of books--the piles, the lists, the volumes, the hours, the pleasures.  Without their contents, do they  mean anything?

Maybe I'm reading too much into this--as I said, it's slight.  But I have to say, it's very much like being lectured on health food by a classic French chef.  Yeah, you're absolutely right, but you've devoted your life to creating dishes full of butter--do you really want me to stop enjoying them?

1 comment:

JMLC/Stellacarolyn said...

This is sort what I feel like Goodreads is- I've browsed back through it a few times and even knowing I don't keep track of everything I read, it's kind of cool to go back and see what I have read. Of course, this proves her point- I often find books that I had completely forgotten I read and since they were so forgettable, should I have used that time for something else?