Friday, November 5, 2010

The Kindly Ones - Jonathan Littell

I can't do it.

I have never dnf'd a book from a publisher before, but The Kindly Ones is SO LONG and I am hating it SO MUCH and there is SO MUCH OF IT LEFT and life is very short.  Plus, not having finished it keeps me from reading the books that Random House keeps sending me and they keep sending me some excellent books

So in honor of Random House's continued faith in me to be able to read a book, I am giving this dnf its own post.

Reasons Why The Kindly Ones Is Killing Me, And Not In The Good Sort Of Way

It starts off hella slow.  When a man tangents off to talk about his bowels before page two, and goes on at length about the beauty of lace looms on page ten, you know you're in for a long haul, Moby Dick-style.

The narrator is constantly assuming that his audience is judging him, and it gets a little wearing.  Of course you're allowed to have a rich inner life, even if you were a Nazi.  You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone still running around convinced that the Nazis were all dastardly robots.

The writing is stilted.  Sometimes that's a result of being translated from the French but methinks in this case not.  It's all, This place was like this and then when I got back to this place it was like this instead, and then this happened and then this happened and then this.  It's like a child telling you a story.  For nearly a thousand pages.

There are bits like this: 'And also they drank, the sense of discipline started to unravel.'  That either needs to be two sentences or have a conjunction or a semi-colon or something, right?  Because then there are bits like this (paraphrased): Clause, clause; clause; clause, clause, clause, clause.  You are not Henry James, Mr Littell.  This is unacceptable.

There is a glossary in the back to help you keep track of what einsatzgruppe means, and goldfasanen, and what an OKH is and how that differs from an OKW and an ORPO.  The glossary is not my beef, it is the need for a glossary, and that's not so much a beef as it is an Irritation In A Book That I'm Otherwise Not Enjoying.

I have failed spectacularly, schätzchen, but it is an overwhelming relief to have this off my shelf.  Bill Bryson's At Home and Oliver Sacks' The Mind's Eye and various other delightful goods may feel free to creep out from under its shadow and be read now.  I'm done with this one.

Get Outta Here Gif - Get Outta Here


I will not caterpillar this because that can't be fair.

14 comments:

Nymeth said...

ONLY Henry James is allowed to be Henry James. You did well to put it down. Enjoy the Bryson and the Sacks!

Trisha said...

You sound like me about three years ago; I had a horrendous time not finishing books, like I couldn't do it horrendous time. It took a lot of practice, and I'm still working on doing it guilt-free, but I hope to get there one day.

Melissa said...

So sad to hear this, i've actually been wanting to read this book for some while now.

I almost caved in and bought it while I was vacationing in New York. I might still give it a go, but I'm definitely not in a rush now.

Thanks for your honest opinion.

Celine said...

I'm quite ruthless and blithe about not finishing books these days. You are saintly for still giving a toss.

Plus OMG! That gif is classic! I can't stop watching it! I hope it's a ramp and not steps because, oi, That poor boy's coccyx!

Steven Jensen said...

I've reviewed Littell's book here, if anyone's interested:

http://spauljensen.wordpress.com/reviews/

Trish said...

I have no problem issuing DNFs because, yes, life really is too short. My recent victims were all the Dragon/Girl/Tattoo blah blah balh books. ugh.

Have fun with Bill Bryson. I'm almost done with At Home and I'm loving it.

Dionne said...

Bill Bryson and Oliver Sacks? Love them both. See, this is why you're the only book review blog in my Google Reader - you cover ALL my happy bases.

Lisa said...

i have had this book on my shelf for a few years now, whenever it came out. But have yet to dive in. Now you have me thinking I won't bother.

I have no guilt in dnf-ing a book, except if it's one that was sent to me (unsolicted) then I do have terrible guilt.
I HATED the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and did not finish it and could care a less. I just can't figure out what all of the hub bub is about.

ANYway, great post as usual, Rach.

Eva said...

Go you DNF-ing it! Especially for Oliver Sacks...I just read one of his older books (Anthropologist on Mars)...I wish he lived in Texas because I would totally propose a May-December romance. *sigh*

Bybee said...

What Lisa and Trish said about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo...I would've broken up with that book if it hadn't been for duty calling...in a Swedish accent, no less.

About your DNF: These things happen.

Kiki said...

Uh oh...this one is on my shelf. I'll give it a try...

_lethe_ said...

I am proud of you!

And I totally recognize the overwhelming feeling of relief when abandoning a hated (or just boring) book.

That gif is brilliant!

Meg Rosoff said...

Kindly Ones (unreadable) was a massive bestseller in France and a massive award winner. I asked it then, and ask it now again -- what is it with the French?

LisaPerry said...

I wish I could remember which famous, snarky Brit it was who described the Larsson oevre as "tedious Swedes, cutting each other."