Ah, expectations, you odd creature you. In the past week, I’ve read two authors I’ve had complicated relationships with, before actually reading them. And by actually reading them, complicated relationships got even more complicated. No, this isn’t a metaphor for anything.
Ahem. So. First: Dave Eggers. He’s one of those writers I know by reputation, and he’s one of those writers people assume I’ve read. Well. Nope, I haven’t. I tried reading his A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius [borrowed from a friend] had fun with the riotous and rambling introduction, made it to page 10 of the actual novel/memoir itself, and then gave up. I tried his You Shall Know Our Velocity [borrowed from a friend as well], and couldn’t get past the stylistic gymnastics. Bah. And then Zet [hi, Zet], lover of all things Dave Eggers, mentioned his short story collection, How We Are Hungry. [She reviewed it recently, here.] I found it in a bookstore days later and decided to buy it. I mean, hell, his longer works might not appeal to me, so why not try out his short fiction, given that I’m predisposed to liking short stories anyway?
And then there’s Justin Taylor. Earlier this year, previews kept popping up about Everything Here is The Best Thing Ever. And I liked what I was seeing, what I was reading. I liked it all so much I suppose I started mythologizing his collection, even before I’d seen a page of it. I was convinced that he was the male Miranda July — that he’d be a fount of sensitivity, of look-you’re-gasping prose. Of quirky situations, of the different and sad ways we love.
For Eggers, I labelled him as unreadable because he likes to run away with the form. I can only take so much cleverness before I barfed all that gimmick out. For Taylor, I labelled him Sasha’s New Favorite Author pre-read. I was enamored by that title, and the promises it offered. I was ExcitedPants for the dude.
And then I sat down and actually read them. Yesterday, I read the last stories of each of the collections. They weren’t what I expected, both of them. I’ll talk more about these two some time soon. But now? Now, I just have to think about how badly I damage my reading experiences by hungrily daydreaming about / blah-ing the hell out of the books I am yet to read. Also, I’m trying to figure out how exactly I can phrase the following: 1] Disappointment, 2] Shameless atonement.