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They're Only Words

Somewhere in his Introduction to The Complete Polysyllabic Spree, Nick Hornby says, and I'm paraphrasing, life's too short to read a book you're not enjoying.

And in most circumstances, I'd agree. But I'm still on my finish-what-you-start kick, so I'll muddle through my latest selection.

In said preface, Hornby also says that when he took the Believer gig, he learned the one commandment of the magazine, Thou Shall Not Slag Anyone Off. This is a noble creed.

So I won't slag off (and what a lovely phrasal verb that is, perhaps I'll teach it tomorrow) the author of my latest literary undertaking. In fact, I won't even name the book (but you can email me if you really want to know, and if you've read it you'll have figured it out in no time).

I'm told it's beautifully written. I think it's overwritten. I keep seeing adverb on top of adjective on top of adverb, shifting points-of-view, paragraph after flowery paragraph of expository descriptions that show rather than tell, and a preponderance of 25-cent words like "fractious", "lugubriously", "maladroit", and "afresh".

I know, I know ... they're all wonderful words. It's a banquet of language in a fast-food world. Feh. I suppose it is the way many people speak on a regular basis, over pitchers of Pimm's and gin martinis whilst making pithy comments about what they've just read in today's Daily Mail.

The other thing that's bugging me is that the chapters bounce back and forth in time from modern-day to about thirty years ago. Normally, this is a structure I have no bones with. But it's painfully obvious that the families in the two time frames are one and the same, and for some reason (which is clearly linked to the double-secret 'terrible event' mentioned in the blurb) the protagonist has a different name depending on if he's a precocious 10-year-old mama's boy or a pretentious 40-year-old brother-in-law-shagging adult.

I wonder if anybody reading the book has had an omygod I never imagined! moment when this twist is revealed (which I hope is soon, but I'm only a third of the way through it).

So I'll keep reading. And I'll hope that I find some affection for (or even an interest in) at least one of the characters. And I'll keep thinking what I might have done differently. And I'll keep wondering why this author made these particular choices to tell his story. And I'll keep remembering that taste is subjective, and the tent is plenty big for those whose write like Anne Tyler, Raymond Carver and Tom Perrotta as well as those whose writing, well, in keeping with the Believer's motto, "tends to be admired by critics more than book-buyers."* That said, I reckon author sells fairly well over here.

But hey, it's not all bad, this new non-ADD book club that I've put myself into. I absolutely loved American Gods, which was a big surprise as it's not a genre (sci-fi/fantasy/modern myth) that I normally dive into.

The other good thing about my new set of rules is that I have to finish the new one within two weeks, and I really don't think I want to spend that long with this family, so it'll be over in short order.

What are y'all reading? Any suggestions for my next one?

* Also from the Introduction to Hornby's TCPS.