Friday, May 28, 2010

Unfinished Friday: Parrot and Olivier in America, by Peter Carey


It's killing me, but I have to admit I'm not going to finish Peter Carey's new novel, Parrot and Olivier in America.

I picked my copy up at ALA Midwinter. Right after the Random House "Book Buzz" presentation, where library marketing reps introduced the spring titles, I sprung to the exhibit floor, and waited in front of the stack of Carey galleys for the moment when the cover would be lifted and the books given out. I'm a huge, huge fan of Oscar and Lucinda and said that no matter what, I wasn't leaving ALA without his new book. And I didn't.

Then I started reading, and it kills me to say this, but I thought it was just boring. Not badly written. Not terrible. Just, not for me. It's a picaresque and I find picaresques notoriously dull. This story told in alternating voices, of two men voyaging to the young United States in the mid nineteenth century, just didn't hold my attention. Olivier is a French aristocrat modeled after Alexis de Toqueville, sent to America to report on its prison system; Parrot is his English servant, and his half of the narrative is much livelier and his voice much more engaging. I gather that Olivier is meant to be a bit of a bore, a bit of a snob and a bit of a dullard. Unfortunately Parrot wasn't enough to keep me going and as much as it pains to admit it, I'm probably not going to finish this book.

I'm also not going to get rid of it, so who knows. I may very well pick it back up again but for now I must admit defeat.