Not fun: cutting clumps of hardened litter from my cat's back toes because I am an awful awful pet owner and have let the boxes go too long without cleaning them.
I could just say that I have been dissatisfied and disappointed by almost every book I've finished recently, but it's more fun to complain in depth, and because I can't sleep, I'll give some cranky and blurry comments.
Still Life by A.S. Byatt -- Very well written and intelligent, but also completely unfulfilling. The large event at the end is alluded to in the prologue, and so is no surprise and had little emotional impact on me. I hated the main character, Frederica, and do not know if I will continue with the quartet based on this alone. She isn't even unlikeable in an interesting, villainousness, deeply psychological way. No, she is just self-absorbed and emotionally shallow beneath all of her intellectual posturing. I realize that this is probably intended -- a friend of mine commented that Byatt is hardest on Frederica because her life is meant to parallel Byatt's own -- but I dislike her in the kind of way that makes it difficult for me to read the book and care about its plot. Not that there was much plot to this one. I really liked two of the minor characters, and interest in them kept me going with momentum despite my disgust with Frederica, but there was almost no resolution for any of them. I realize that it is very much a piece of a larger saga, but that's no excuse. Just imagine how frustrating it would be to read this book when it was first published! I would probably absolutely hate it if I'd read it then; right now I am just left with disappointment and the desire to reread Possession.
Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow by someone whose name I can't remember and am too lazy to look up -- Started out promisingly. I was riveted from the first chapter, maybe even the first page. It had all the makings of a great murder mystery that would also teach me some novel, easily packaged facts about snow and ice and Greenland. I got seriously bogged down in the middle, though, when the plot seemed to stray vastly from the investigation into a small boy's mysterious death to some huge international conspiracy spanning generations. Again, disappointing.
The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan -- I liked, but didn't love, McEwan's Atonement, and so when I read a synopsis about this book I was looking forward to read it. I almost wish that I hadn't asked my mother to procure it for me because I hated it so very much. The story is basically a clumsy marriage of Lord of the Flies and Les Enfants Terribles, all about four orphans who descend into rotten decadence after they encase their mother's corpse in a block of cement to conceal her death from authorities. I will admit that I knew from the start that it would be twisted and rather terrible in this way; that's actually why I read it in the first place. At some point last fall I was half-decided that I would write my undergraduate thesis on incest in literature. Now, I know this sounds weird, but really it was a veiled excuse to write about Dorothy and William Wordsworth without overtly writing about them. In general, theoretically, I don't have a problem with incest in literature, but it has to be written gorgeously or handled thoughtfully or portrayed truthfully for it to work, and even though Atonement wasn't particularly linguistically stunning, I had hoped that McEwan might at least present an interesting and worthwhile examination of the issue. I was so wrong. The book was obvious and heavy-handed, but not even in a moral sense, which might be a good thing for the believability of the narrator, but which left me feeling disgusted and bitter about the day I spent reading the book.
The Art Spirit by Robert Henri -- I suspect that I would have been massively impacted by this book if I'd read it five years ago, but now I have read other, better, discussions of the meaning of writing and the philosophy of aesthetics. I yawned and skimmed more than I should have, but I did read the whole thing through. Must decide on what to say to the uncle who gifted it to me.
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters -- This book was probably the most satisfying of all that I read, which is a little sad because it is fluffy lesbian historical fiction. Once I got used to the frequent and needless use of semi-colons I was engrossed. I found it as delightful a romp as the first time I read it, though I do still like Affinity better.
Right now I'm reading The Book Thief and Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. I am -- surprise, surprise -- not thrilled with either of them. Contemporary fiction is failing me, but I'm not sure what I do want. Something meaty and old and difficult? Or something lighter but still with an arresting plot? Both, probably: contemporary and fluffy for night and classic for daytimes. I am thinking of rereading a few of my favourite books from my science fiction and fantasy phase, but I'm afraid that I might hate them and feel disillusioned and sad.
I am officially taking book recommendations.