When You Can’t Even With A Book: “He Who Searches”

IMG_3327I hate to make this book the poster child for books I couldn’t bring myself to finish, but I really like how this photo came out. And that’s where my disappointment stems from, although I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover. But I couldn’t help it. This was the book next in line for a review, but I didn’t just couldn’t. I’m sorry book gods, I just couldn’t.

I picked up this copy of Luisa Valenzuela’s “He Who Searches” at one of those crazy book sales where I pay $50 for fifteen books. I picked up because it was clearly written by a Latina (I’ve been trying to read more books by Latina writers) and because of the cover. It’s such a dark, interesting cover, isn’t it? I’m a sucker for black-and-white covers.

I read the back cover and I was intrigued: professor, prostitute, psychology. Those three words had me hooked. The first couple of pages were a struggle because it’s not exactly clear who the narrator is. And I think—I’m pretty damn sure—the narrator changes every couple of pages. Either that or this book was more confusing than I thought. And there was a man who was cheating on his wife with the prostitute he was following around, psychoanalyzing without her knowing, but she did know, kind of. It was all very vague. I gave up half way through because I was getting lost in the story, if there ever was one. From the back cover, I was led to believe that the book had something to do with a horrible time in Argentina’s history. But I did not get that from the first half, so it must have been in the latter half.

I feel guilty for not finishing this book because there were some great lines in there, some great thoughts about the relationship between people who may not know each other on an intimate level, but on a human level they might. But it was more of a chore than an enjoyment to read this book. And that’s what happens with a lot of book I can’t finish. It feels like I’m trying to get through with it instead of taking the time to enjoy it and really invest my time with what the author has put on the page.

The translation might be to blame as well with Valenzuela’s book. I think “He Who Searches” book was meant to be read in Spanish. There’s a very specific mindset in the narrative that I think would make more sense, or at least flow better, in Spanish than in English. I can’t use this excuse with every book, however. Sometimes a native English book can also fail to keep me interested.

In a recent live podcast recording of A Tiny Sense of Accomplishment, Sherman Alexie talks about how he always finishes a book because you never know what you might miss in the pages you haven’t read. I truly admire this and wish I could do the same. But I just can’t. I think I’d rather move on to other books that I am invested in. Life is too short.

Although, who knows, I may come back to this book at a later time.

Are there any books you guys couldn’t finish?

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