Z is for "Zut alors!" or What Kate Has Learned From This Project

What I (tried) to read: The Marriage Bureau for Rich People by Farahad Zama

This book is an obvious attempt to build on the success of Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency.

Okay, that might not be fair. Maybe, Zama came up with the idea before McCall Smith became popular, and McCall Smith's success simply enabled him to sell his idea. Or, maybe he didn't but was inspired by McCall Smith (and why not?!). Or, maybe he just thought, "I could make a buck by doing the McCall Smith thing in India!"

Whatever his reasoning, I couldn't get into the book. McCall Smith rambles but does go somewhere. Although the first book focuses on Mma Ramotswe's biography, McCall Smith supplies little mystery arcs to keep you interested.

The Marriage Bureau provides lots of stuff-is-happening but no little stories. I kept thinking, "THIS chapter will give me a story about matchmaking," but no, just more information about the main character. So I gave up.

Having said that, the "Z"s are an excellent place to end--ha ha--because they excellently sum up how this project has gone. What do the "Z"s specifically prove about reading literature generally?

1. There's a lot of books out there that I have no desire to read.

Many, many, many books have been printed about characters' ANGST-RIDDEN/PROBLEM-RIDDEN LIVES, involving EMOTIONAL CHANGE and INSIGHTFUL, PROFOUND INSIGHTS AND PROFUNDITIES.

Oh, blech.

But people must read these kinds of books because people keep publishing them.

2. There's a lot of writers people have never heard of.

A lot of my students think that having a literary career means writing a novel that takes off and makes them famous. This is kind of understandable when you realize that most of my student's lives have been dominated by Harry Potter and Twilight.

Or it's just the age. Here's a confession: I thought the same thing at 20. AND I was trying to get published (unlike many of my students), so I should have known how hard it really was.

The truth is, publishing a novel is impressive but no guarantee of stardom. Unfortunately.

3. There are good writers you haven't heard of or read.

Out of the writers I read, the only one I have gone on to read more of was Elkin. However, I enjoyed reading Xenophon, Wroblewski, Trollope, Paton, Grant Morrison, Letts, Ishiguro, and Dreiser. Also, in browsing the letters, I was exposed to writers like Deanna Raybourn.

4. You can learn from bad writing.

It's unfair to keep picking on Jeffers since I don't actually think she is a terrible writer; I just disagreed with her vision. But reading Jeffers is what led me to write A Man of Few Words.

I don't think reading Hesse led me to do anything, but I sure had fun analyzing the Siddhartha.

5. There are a finite number of books.

Sure, there are many, many "S"s and billions of "C"s, but there are only so many "Z"s, no matter how many different libraries you go to.

The finite number of books is still an awful, awful lot.

Am I going to read them all?


But it's nice to know that I could--if I did absolutely nothing else with my life ever again.

Will I do a project like this again?

Yes, although my next reading project will involve non-fiction and the Dewey Decimal system. But I will have a system. I like having a system to force myself to read more than mysteries, romances, and humor memoirs. I place a high premium on comfort in my entertainment; I've never believed that books and television must have an EDUCATIONAL purpose. Still, a systematic approach opens the possibility that I'll find something good or discover an opportunity to respond in a constructive, fulfilling way.

But I doubt I'll go back to the "Z"s for awhile.

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