May 17, 2008

Personal History

I just took Personal History by Katherine Graham off my "Books I'm going to read this year" list. Here's the thing. I'm in this book club. Normally, even if I don't enjoy the book that much, I can push through and finish it and be part of the discussion. I was a little bit daunted when I saw the SIZE of the book (688 pages) for May, Personal History. But I was determined to try. I started reading it almost two months early. It was slow going - it was dry and detailed and the print is quite small. I made it to page 100, I was on track, and it seemed like an acheivement in it's own right. Guess what? That's as far as I got. I found this book so uncompelling that I could not justify spending hours and hours reading almost 600 more pages of something that was so uninteresting to me. I expected a story about a woman who made some sort of triumph in life, that would be a strong woman roll model. Instead what I found was the story of someone born into a wealthy family who may not have seen as much of her parents as she'd like, but had every opportunity given to her. She got older, went to college (which I'm sure was all paid for), and then she got a job at the newspaper her father owned. I just don't find that compelling. Name dropping and politics abound. She describes dinner parties and the outfits of the people at her father's Washington events in excrutiating, dry detail, but when it comes to her own miscarriage and then a later still birth of her baby it warrants a few sentances (according to my friend, who managed to get 170 pages in). I suppose it might be interesting to read of her husband's mental illness and subsequent suicide, but I imagine that the way she describes it leaves something to be desired. I do appreciate the historical value of her story, the inside view she has on many political histories and events. Perhaps if I was a history buff or read the Washington Post a lot I might have been more interested. I just can't get into any book, fiction or non, where I'm able to get 1/7 of the way through it and not feel any connection or investment in any of the characters. So, I guess come this Sunday I'll be explaining all of this to my book club friends (I'm interested to see if anyone finished it), and moving on to Letters from the Earth by Mark Twain, which is much smaller and promises to be quite a bit more interesting.

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