Booking Through Thursday: Odd

Hooray! I still have almost a whole hour left in this day! Posting memes on time makes me so happy.

What’s the oddest book you’ve ever read? Did you like it? Hate it? Did it make you think?

I’ve never really thought of books as odd, per se, but there are definitely some zingers in my reading history. I’m going to give that award to two books.

The first odd book I can remember is If on a winter’s night a traveler, by Italo Calvino. I think I was assigned to read it for my world literature class in college. The professor pointed out that the reading list was mostly European authors, but I figured Calvino should get credit for not being British, French, or Irish. If on a winter’s night a traveler is odd for several reasons: it’s written in second person, it’s a novel about reading, and it contains the beginning of several other stories within the novel. (One of the latter stories gets graphically sexual; just in case you decide to read it, you have been warned.) It was one of the few books in that class that I failed to read on the assigned schedule but later finished (unlike, for example, Madame Bovary and The Charterhouse of Parma). I’ve never read a book quite like that one. It stuck with me so much that I even dragged it all the way out here when I moved last year. I haven’t reread it, but I might yet (and I will be skipping the aforementioned story).

The second odd book, though, runs a close second in the category of “oddest”: The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, by Laurence Sterne. Oh, Tristram. It’s a fictional autobiography, but that doesn’t keep the author from beginning his life story with his own conception. Not birth, mind you: conception. I’m pro-life, but even that’s a bit much for me. Tristram is a phenomenally bad storyteller; I don’t think he manages to make it to adulthood before the book ends. My professor discovered the existence of a movie adaptation while we were reading the book in 18th-century English novel class, and I remember discussing how it would be an exercise in futility to try to force such a weird book to make sense on film. I don’t think I finished it so much as gave up in frustration, but I gave it the old college try.

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