I finished reading Landscape Painted with Tea a week or so ago. It took me a while to get through it partly because we took a couple of trips recently (I take magazines with me when I travel instead of books) and also because I wasn’t able to get into the book. There were a lot of absurb bits and I just wasn’t in the right mood for stuff like:
…and she listened to her husband in bed next to her as in his sleep he ate in Serbian and then translated into French, tasted cabbage, dipped into the jar of pickled peppers, gnawed at fish bones, guzzled brandy, or blew into the polenta full of bursting bubbles…
The story overall was interesting though, so I did want to read through it all. I also like the way the second half of the book was structured. The author numbered the chapters like a crossword (8 Down, 4 Across…) and encouraged me to read in crossword order instead of reading the chapters in the order they were printed (I read straight through and not in crossword order). There was also plenty of commentary for people who didn’t want to read it that way, such as:
Because, while a fine story may not need fine language or fine words, it does need a fine way of reading, which, unfortunately, does not exist yet, but will, we hope, come with time… Because, just as there are talented and untalented writers, so there are gifted and ungifted readers…
To make the point about the crossword, you had to solve the crossword to get the ending of the book (although the publisher printed the last sentence at the end of the book — after the blank page left by the author that said ‘Space left for the reader to write in the denouement of the novel or the solution to this crossword’).
To make the point about how he felt about certain types of readers, the last line of the book (before the solution to the crossword) was ‘The reader cannot be so stupid as not to remember what happened next to Atanas Silvar, who, for a time, was called Razin.’
For the next book, I’ve started reading Life of a European Mandarin.