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Reading notes: Open City by Teju Cole

Open City: A Novel - Teju Cole

I stopped reading Open City by Teju Cole - at least temporarily - on page 75. By its description, I thought that I would really love this book, but there are a few reasons why, every 10 or so pages into reading, I have found myself nearly ready to close the book and give up on it for good.

 

First, I find the protagonist to be very unrelatable despite the almost overwhelmingly obvious universality of his experiences in Manhattan. His urban melancholy borders on tedious and rather annoying instead of endearing as I thought it might be from the first few pages. This is taxing because I would otherwise find it very easy to relate to urban malaise and feelings of utter isolation in crowded cities. So the reader does not easily come to feel any emotions for the dull narrator.

 

Secondly, the literary and musical references which frame nearly every moment of contemplation for the protagonist are dull and also unrelatable, not because the author does not convey mood, feeling or immersion when the character speaks of them - quite the contrary - but because I think they are in fact a rather pretentious and uncomfortable "fit" for him. Or maybe this is yet another by-product of not building an emotional connection to the main personality within the first quarter of the book.

 

Similarly, I have thus far found the secondary characters dull, with only a few intriguing personalities glossed over as passing strangers.

 

And yet I have plodded on, page by page, just about ready to put the book aside permanently, but then some turn of phrase, an amusing truism or dead-on description of a familiar aspect of NYC life as it might be seen from an outsider's eyes hooks me back in again for a few more pages.

 

It's possible that I'll return to the book at some later date and catch up where I left off, so I'm not ready to review this text yet.