Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Brains, Moo Moo Cows and Free Thinkers

I tried off and on again yesterday to read the book club selection, Your Brain on Music by Daniel Leviton, and was unsuccessful. I guess if you were really into music it might be riveting, but I'm not so sure. The author suggested that people who were musicians or were knowledgeable, skim the first chapter.

Since my only formal encounters with music occurred between the ages of 6 and 11 when I took piano lessons, I felt I'd better plow my way through it. I have managed pp 13-38 and have 27 pages to finish the chapter tantalizingly entitled "What is Music?" The writing style is as deadly as the choice of title. How, I kept asking myself, did this book become a New York Times bestseller?

If it doesn't catch me and hold me today I am going to give up and hand the book over to Sharon with whom I am sharing the cost of the books on the list.

I sure hope the other books suggested by the group leader are better choices, but the first book, like any respectable first chapter, should grab the reader immediately. Don't you agree? And it should not be 65 pages of hard labour.

I would like to be able to like the book. Honestly. And every once in a while I find myself thinking, "Yes ... that's the way it happens in literature or art," but mostly I find myself acting like an ADD kid who starts counting the pages to the end instead of concentrating.

I really want to get back to Ted Kerasote's book, Merle's Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog.

And some of the other book club selections look good enough to read too.

This is the first time I have been part of a book club so I am not sure of the etiquette. If you hate the book and can't read it, do you go to that meeting anyway or do you keep your opinions (based on ignorance as they are) at home?

Earlier this year I read Virginia Ironside's wonderful hoot of a book, No! I Don't Want to Join a Bookclub: a diary of growing old disgracefully, and liked it so much I wrote to her. I wonder if she has a fan club made up of people unable to deal with book clubs. Do they get together and discuss unreadable books?

Have any of you got past the first chapter of The Brain?

When I was in university I couldn't get past the first chapter of James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I kept gagging on the moo moo cow segment. Years later I told an Irish friend I should probably read it; that my education must be sadly lacking. She said it was probably unnecessary now, but I decided to try again. Surprisingly I liked it fine and slid right past the moo moo cow without incident. Maybe that will happen with The Brain in thirty years. I will be 98 then.

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