Friday, October 29, 2010

Reading Notes: After one cup of tea, we're still strangers.

Photo Credit: Flickr
My reading experience of Greg Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea (my October Afghanistan pick for the World Reading Party) is taking a lot longer than expected. I'm sure it's partly due to moving and that when I get home from work, I spend time unpacking or straightening up rather than reading. Also, my commute is shorter, so I have less time to read on the subway (not gonna lie...kind of a bummer; never thought I would want a longer commute). But mostly I just can't seem to get into it.

A friend's husband recently read this book and raved about it. I thought I'd feel the same in that do-good warm and fuzzy kind of way, while also getting a thrill out of enjoying a good nonfiction work. But you know the thing? I'm a little more than a third done, and the real author, David Oliver Relin, just won't shut up about Greg Mortenson. Seriously, with the detail and descriptions he gives, it's like hero worship here. And all these descriptions would be fine if you felt like it was Mortenson writing his first-hand experience, but it's weird reading someone's story, the someone who gets top billing in author credits, and it's written from another person's perspective. Why not just write it from first-person, Mr. Mortenson? It is your story.

Also, he hasn't even started building the damn school yet, and I'm on page 130 out of 331. I get that it's a process. I get that you went through a lot of trouble and many setbacks to fulfill your dream. And I have so much respect for your motivation and dedication. But at the same time, in all these pages, I'm finding out more about the specific materials needed to build a bridge and build a school, when I'm not a contractor and I don't care about that stuff. I want to know, in depth, about how the people of Korphe felt, how Mortenson interacted with them, what exactly drew him to this village over all the others. I'm reading words, but I'm not feeling anything yet. And this is the kind of stuff that could make me bawl just from sheer overflow of emotion. So far, I think it's the writing's fault.

Hopefully we'll become friends after another cup of tea.


Kristin said...

If you can believe it, his next book, which doesn't have David Relin as an author, is even worse. The writing is horrific, and the story wasn't compelling enough to get me through more than the first two chapters.

I actually (despite my expectations) really enjoyed Three Cups of Tea, but I hear you on how long and drawn out it can be. My main complaint is that while it goes into lots of detail, it never really gives a step by step of how he actually went about figuring out funding, or building an actual school. It was never as sentimental as I worried it would be, but it wasn't as practical as I would have liked, either.

Kari said...

Wow, I'm pretty surprised that all three of your comments were so similar! I've seen this book around a lot but never actually heard much opinion about it. It's interesting that everyone (of you) seem to have the same complaints I did. KRISTIN - I wonder if that's why the second book is written just by him, as you said. Is it in first person?

JILL - that comment just made me laugh out loud.

I actually just finished the book about an hour ago, and I'm looking forward to writing new comments on it...