I remember, when I worked in the bookstore, picking up Call Me By Your Name and being sucked into the world of the novel. It was one of those books where the language had a taste and a feel to it. I dislike the word sensuous, but there it was, sensuously rubbing against the tongue and the skin. The language was so evocative, you could smell the beach, the yearning of the protagonist. It wasn’t a complicated plot, but it was a beautiful little coming of age/love story. And so when I saw that Aciman had written a new book, I was fairly excited.
The story of Eight White Nights is also fairly uncomplicated–a man and a woman meet at a party in Manhattan; over the following seven days, they meet every evening at the same cinema. And nothing happens. In my younger years I could never leave a book unfinished, even if I hated it, I’d soldier through to the end. Once I started school again, I don’t have that kind of luxury, or perhaps I simply do not have that kind of patience. I made it about eight pages into Eight White Nights and put it down again. The language (also described as “sensuous” on the book jacket, yet another reason to hate that word) was recognizably that of the same writer, but the innocence of the protagonist in his first book wasn’t there, instead, confronted with the jaded, self-conscious tones of academia, reveling in their cleverness. I hated Clara right away, I disliked the unnamed narrator, I disliked how I could tell that the entire story would be based around the relationship/non-relationship of these two self-absorbed ninnies, and I simply did not care. And I put the book down.
The last time this happened was with Lethem’s Chronic City and I felt similarly guilty about it then. I’m not sure if my tastes are changing, if I’m just getting old and losing patience, or if I’m just more suited to things like Beowulf, which is up next on my re-reads shelf.