And how when you really weren’t expecting anything to start with, and then you find yourself completely smitten, it just adds fuel to the infatuation?
Even though you realize that part of your enthusiasm, at least part of it, is rooted in your lack of expectation to start with?
Even though you recognize that you still have half the book to read and certainly your reading history has provided countless examples of books you adored for the first half even though you yawned through the rest?
Even though you recognize the potential for risk, you still want to approach every stranger who has a book-in-hand to tell them about this book, which, in my most recent instance of this phenomenon, is Nicolas Dickner’s Nikoski (which I’m reading in translation, from the original French to English, thanks to Lazer Lederhandler, who won a Governor General’s Award for his efforts).
Has anyone else found themselves surprised to have fallen in love like this with a particular book lately?
A big part of my loving this book is that the words feel as though they simply must be just as they are: the story feels organic, as though it had to be told in the very manner in which it was told. Maybe this is the kind of feeling from which over-the-top accolades like “master storyteller” emerge? In any case, it is the kind of storytelling that makes me want to curl up with the book and just inhale it, from first page to last.
It’s hard to isolate the reasons that I am enjoying this read so much, but I’ve chosen a few passages (spoiler-free) to try to summarize some of the elements of this book that I find so appealing. Click the link that follows if you’re curious.
1. “The motherboard sizzles like a trout in a frying pan.” 112
*Not only is a vivid image, and not just poetic but realistic, but this subtly interconnects with a bunch of other images and situations in the book: complex crafting that simply reads like a good yarn.
2. “As an apprentice archaeologist, Noah would ordinarily be expected to work in [the university library’s] Section EF (American History) or Section G (Geography and Anthropology), but he prefers the tranquility of Section V (Naval Sciences, Travel Narratives and Sea Serpents).” 125
*Yes it’s informative, and vital to the plot because had Noah chosen to sit elsewhere things would have turned out very differently for him, but this passage also reveals one of the aspects of the book that I most enjoy — stuffstuffstuff Sea Serpents — it’s infused with fun, it’s infunsed.
3. “My life is governed by the attraction of books. The weak magnetic field of my fate is distorted by those thousands of fates more powerful and more interesting than my own.” 147
* There is an absolutely delightful bookishness to Nikolski that is evident in this snippet but which bobs to the surface many times throughout the novel’s three main narrative threads. I also chose this passage because it reveals that there are a lot of “big ideas” lurking beneath the surface of the story, which is to say that they may keep it afloat but you don’t need to do more than dip a toe into their waters if you’d rather float on the top and enjoy the ride.
With some books I can pull out a specific feature that has won me over. Sometimes poetic language stands out, sometimes I find a character particularly intriguing, sometimes I am gripped by plot: with Nikolski it’s the whole package for me and I’m sure this is going to be one of my favourite reads of 2010.
[Note: This is my first read for Canada Reads 2010 and what a fantastic way to kick off this reading project! Edited to add that it won for 2010.]