Ordinary Human Language

by Brian Crane

The Museum of Innocence

-Book Cover

A huge novel that is carefully written and that I often enjoyed. But it’s not easy going: partly because of the length, partly because of the pacing (“carefully written” often reads “slow”). But partly too because it was hard not to side with the protagonists’ critical friends while also disliking them intensely. There’s not obvious place to stand in this story, and I frequently felt uncomfortable reading this book.

There was a lot to like here…and I’m going to read another book by Pamuk in the coming months because I’m curious now. But hesitant too.

N.B.–The references to Proust and Montaigne at the end make sense of a lot of what came before. This is an intensely intellectual book hiding in the sentimental novel it pretends to be. Aside from a brief moment (one paragraph) in the engagement party (an incredible, long chapter, pure tour-de-force) the novel’s intellectual project is withheld to the very final pages, where (as in Proust) the status of what you have been reading is revealed. Making sense of that will take rereading and I’ve not done it. So for now, my judgment is “interesting,” “enjoyable if frustrating” and “I’m curious.”

July 2011. Mysore/Chennai, India and Montreal

Posted August 24, 2011