7.20.2013

You're despicable

"You're desthpicable!"
Books with unlikable characters are a challenge. You have to find something else that makes you care enough to finish the book. I've read books in the past with characters that started out unlikable or irritating, but grew on me because I started to understand them better. I've been thinking about the dilemma of trying to like the unlikable all week, ever since I finished reading Hanya Yanagihara's The People in the Trees. The last time a character pissed me off this much was in The Catcher in the Rye. I still hate that little punk, Holden Caulfield.

The People in the Trees was beautifully written. It had all the other things that make me love a book--except a character that I could bond with. According to all my rules and theories about reading, this book shouldn't have worked. And yet, it did. Figuring out exactly how Yanagihara did this has been driving me nuts since I finished it. The main character was a terrible, terrible person. He was actually criminally terrible. But I still read the book and liked it.

It occurs to me that you don't often come across that many narrators that are also awful human beings. I suppose that it's a special challenge for a writer, on top of all the other challenges of writing an interesting book. I have no idea how they do it.

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