this is the highly subjective way I read and interpret literature
(I mostly read classic belles-lettres, but you’ll find some examples of trashy readings here and there as well)
I did not enjoy What I loved. I also don’t know why I sometimes force myself to continue reading certain books, although I clearly don’t like them. I already quit reading Hustvedt’s novel two or even three times before, so I guess, I really wanted this to be good, but it is just not happening for me.
Some of the peoplely parts were really good, featuring touching moments as well as believable and intense descriptions of the relationships between the four or ten protagonists (depending on how you count), but then there were also lots of random excursus and lengthy descriptions of artwork. They are way too numerous, too long, too detailed and practically irrelevant, so I started skipping them completely, which is something I normally never do. The same goes for most of the descriptions and characterisations in this novel, they just drag on and on without really going anywhere.
I also never warmed to the characters themselves. They are way too artsy for my taste and the whole thing is just elitist as fuck. Hustvedt obviously did a lot of research and wanted to incorporate as much as possible in the novel, but most of the time it turned into boastful academic name dropping. So although the characters are well and exhaustively described, to me they did not come alive and felt very flat throughout. There was something forced in all of them that just turned me away.
I do not understand how What I loved got so many good reviews. I am not even sure, whether this novel can really be described as ‘intelligent’ or if it is just superficially pretending to be. I was missing coherence and logic and to top it off, this was one of the worst, most half-assed endings I have come across since Bruce Robinson’s fucked up attempt of turning Hunter S. Thompson’s Rum Diary into a movie.