Saturday, July 10, 2010

Olive Kitteridge - Elizabeth Strout

Sometimes I think my mind must be turning to mush. I am thoroughly engaged in vampire stories and formulaic legal thrillers, but then I pick up something ostensibly of true literary value - a Pulitzer winner no less - and I just find it incredibly tedious. I'm trying to tell myself that it's the difference between a good story and good writing. Certainly, I can acknowledge that Olive Kitteridge, a collection of 13 stories about a retired schoolteacher in small-town Maine, is certainly well-written, but I just found it boring. The title character, Olive, is thoroughly unlikeable. Everything about her is negative - and while everyone around her (particularly her son) seems hell-bent on getting as far from her as possible (except her saintly husband who stays in love with her for reasons unfathomable), Olive just seems to live in her own world where nothing but her own opinions and needs matter. While not every story has Olive as the focus - sometimes she just appears as a passing character - I just couldn't find anything about the world Strout created that I wanted to keep reading about. Usually, I feel this way about the Man Booker prize winners, but alas the Pulitzer has become too intellectual for me. I'll keep looking to their winners for book suggestions, but as I get older and more feeble-minded, I may be sticking to the New York Times bestsellers.

1 comment:

Marji said...

Beware of Pulitzer prize winners (or other literary winners). It is not a reflection on your intellect-- more likely, it speaks better of your intellect and judgment when you reject so-called "winners".

(I am, of course, making this comment in complete ignorance. I am not familiar with this book-- just making an observation about prize winners in general. I am guilty of stereotyping and painting with a huge brush.)