Sunday, October 3, 2010

Love, despite obstacles

I think I may have mentioned at some point that I don't exactly enjoy reading Aleksandar Hemon. He sounds a bit coarse to me, too obviously Eastern European. I find him very condescending at times and his self-deprecation feels disingenuous. He's obviously full of himself but he is also smart enough to know better. He also reminds me of many of my male Bulgarian friends. Not exactly in a good way.


I have to admit that to a large extend he is a poet of the immigrant experience that I'm living. The family neuroses he describes, alas, hit too close to home. His struggle juggling his multiple identities... way too similar to my own to dismiss. I KNOW that that's not how I am supposed to read him. I recognize how special his writing style is. Yet, I can't get past his biography. I had to get half-way through The Lazarus Project to stop telling myself I was a bad reader. With Love and Obstacles... I didn't even try.

My approach to the collection was embarrassingly unimaginative and straight-forward. Here's this guy who is pretty much my age, that lived a very similar childhood to my own, that came to the States filled with curiosity but no expectations and ended up staying way longer than he ever imagined. Let's compare notes, I thought, because... you know... that's MY story, too.

Before we delve into the specifics, I wanted to ask you guys... what did reading Love and Obstacles FEEL like for you?

It's Bookclub Time!!!


  1. I’ll start with admitting that I am a very bad reader. I take a purely selfish pleasure in reading and if I can’t connect with a book, I drop it. There is so much out there that I would like to read and so little time. I’ve been more dedicated since I joined this book club and am actually finishing the books. Well, I had a really hard time finishing this one. I was struggling to find those nuggets I could connect to, like the quirkiness of his family, some of his observations on American life and the feeling of displacement. Aleksandar seems to have a great talent for beautifully arranging words in a sentence, however his stories weren’t able to strike a chord with me. His arrogance and occasional profanity didn’t help either. Intellectually, I understand that as an Eastern European immigrant myself, I am going through a lot of the same experiences. I would have chosen a lot different tone and approach to tell my story though if I was a writer.

  2. Can you read a novel for rational reasons only? I mean, I recently finished a crappy murder mystery just because it described the rare book trade in Italy in rich detail. And the worst thing: the end validated my initial reaction to it!