Sunday, April 13, 2008
I am giving up on 1776 by David McCullough. Normally, I am too task-oriented to not finish a book once I start it, but I find it easier to drop an audio book than a paper book. Maybe there is something too immediately tactile about abandoning a paper book, while stopping the audio book is more of a "virtual" abandonment. In any event, I only got through about two hours of the 12 hours of 1776. Nothing against McCullough's writing, which is first rate, but I simply do not enjoy stories about battles. The guns, the tents, the weather, the food, the boots, the horses -- none of it interests me. I did not realize that this book was all about fighting the first year of the Revolutionary War. So, great book. Just not my cup of tea.
Despite its title, I was surprised by how myth-centric The Centaur is. It is the story of a high school science teacher and his student son. It is also John Updike's re-telling of the myth of the centaur Chiron who, wounded, gives his life (his immortality) to Prometheus.
This is a book I may appreciate more in the recollection. While reading it, I was distracted by the allegory. Sometimes, the mythical references were too vague or convoluted to catch and I had to refer to the index at the back to make sure I wasn't missing something important. But at times, the myth is more than allegory -- it is right there in the middle of the action. Updike sometimes refers to the hero as Chiron and describes his hooves clacking on the school stairs, for instance. I found the switch from allegory to action to be jarring.
Also, the hero was annoying, not just to me as a reader, but to his son, wife, and co-workers in the story. I can't figure out how his unlikeability ties in with the myth of Chiron.
I read this because it won the National Book Award in 1964. I prefer his Rabbit novels.