Here I write, not quite halfway through The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski, wondering what is taking so long. I look at this book and its' modest 234 pages, and figure I should finish it quite quickly. But here I am, a week in, not having reached the halfway mark. The book itself isn't a difficult read, and I always feel as if I am making good progress.
When I first starting reading this, I had thought it was 'about the Holocaust,' a general statement if ever there was one. This only really came from having once seen the book described as 'Holocaust literature' though, not from having read any details about plot or theme. I now know, that while it may have taken place during the Holocaust, it is about a boy, alone, struggling to survive. He roams from village to village, staying with whoever will take him in, trying to avoid death. But each encounter seems to end in some sort of horrible tragedy.
It occurred to me yesterday that it is these tragedies that are slowing me down. Each chapter seems to begin relatively calmly, as the boy finds a new home, and while life isn't all peaches and cream, it could be much worse. But as the chapter develops, things begin to unravel, as each chapter crescendos into a roar of horror and tragedy. At the end of each, I feel as if I need to put the book down and allow the things I just read to soak in, like the pause one experiences after witnessing a horrible car accident.
But the tragedies in this book, despite being depressing as hell, aren't stopping me from enjoying the read. The only problem is they may be stopping me from picking up the book. While it sits on the coffee table, I can think of a million things to do instead of reading it, but once I do pick it up, it's quite enjoyable, despite being so horrific.
I would like to finish it sometime before the weekend, and have stopped reading any non-fiction on the side until it is finished. I also need to start thinking about what books I'm going to read as I approach the halfway point. I have often said I would read Lord of the Rings as my 50th book, and that still may be the case. But what to read for number 49? I currently have Native Son, All the King's Men, The Sot-Weed Factor and White Teeth out from the library. Having read that The Sot-Weed Factor is as funny as Catch-22, it may be a nice fit after this less than funny read.