Bridge San Louis Rey Somethingorother

Not for me.

You’ve heard of Thorton Wilder, he wrote Our Town.

The Bridge of San Louis Rey is a selection of The Big Read.

A rope bridge in Peru snaps and five people fall to their doom. An Italian priest goes about collecting information about the dead folks in order to prove to himself that God had it in for them. The novel (?!) is written as one chapter for each of the five guys.

Snore Fest.

I found it to be patronizing to both reader and character. The narrator is omniscient, knows everything there is to know about the characters and tells the reader every single sordid detail about these sad sacks because the characters are obviously too pathetic to tell their own story.

Eye-rolling pompous blurbs like “few have delved deeper into the human heart” just set my teeth on edge.

Please.

Blah. This won the Pulitzer Prize.

Next for me on The Big Read Big Plan is Into The Beautiful North by Louis Alberto Urrea.

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Next.

Roll down the window!

So I’m sitting in the car, the Hubs and I are driving someplace and we’re listening to an audiobook of his choice.

Fiction, fantasy.

I’m getting ready to roll down the window and dash my brains out on the pavement at 70mph because the story is so boring.

Thing is, I’ve already read a dozen variations on this theme.

We’re focused on a young lady who is to be married to the king. She’s naieve, bordering on stupid. She’s trapped in this destiny engineered for her. We’re going on and on about how young and nubile her body is. The physician has inspected her to make sure she’s a virgin… Now we’re going on and on about the quality of the cloth that makes up her gown. The cut and drape of her gown. The way the laces work. How long the sleeves are… Huh. Now she’s getting detailed instruction on how to dupe this king into believing that he’s not raping her on their marriage night…

Why is this so intolerably boring to me? Am I old and cynical? Why can’t our fantasy fiction be about older women? Why can’t her area of expertise expand beyond the clothes she’s wearing? Why can’t the world building include a world that’s not obsessed with a woman’s physical beauty? Why can’t the totally imaginary society value their women for something other than their single-use-only fuckability?

It’s an imaginary world. Can’t we invent something better for ourselves?

Nuts. Hubs has turned on the child-lock for the window controls.

My Growing Fear Of Books

One of the books I bought at my first convention was Nobody Gets The Girl by James Maxey. Obviously, I thought it was fantastic and grew very optimistic about books that I discovered at cons. Interestingly, there were two other books I bought at that con and they were not fantastic. They were fine. Over the last year and a half or so, I’ve made it a goal to buy at least one book from each convention I attend. I look for interesting ideas from non-marketing machine authors, usually found sitting alone in the dealer room or in writers ally. I’m happy buying indie art from indie artists, and will continue doing so, but I have come to a sad conclusion. Most of these books are not fantastic.I have read some not-fantastic books that were self-published, small press, and big 6 products. Books written by people I know fairly well, kind of well, and not at all. Each time a book changes from could-be-awesome to not-quite-there, I get a little sad. We all want everything to be fantastic and unfortunately, there are some awfully big misses that began to grow in me a fear of books.I have learned something about my own literary preferences over the last year. I hate internal monologue. Remember that I spent 6 years as a playwright. For me, Plot + Character – Musing about what just happened – 2 pages describing an unimportant room = engaging story.

I spent 9 months or so reading, sometimes slogging, through the non-fantastic wondering if James Maxey was a fluke. Nothing else was comparing well to my go-to’s of Robert E. Howard, Connie Willis, Jasper Fforde, and William Browning Spencer. Imagine then my delight at once again discovering something fantastic.

I am 2 chapters into Leona Wisoker’s Secrets Of The Sands and am very happy. I’m not the biggest Dune fan, so after meeting Leona a year ago and seeing the desert scape on the cover, I avoided picking up the book. But as fate would have it, we are co-guests of honor at Madicon this March. I felt that I should read one of her books so we could have at least a polite chat about it. But it’s actually so great that 2 chapters in I want to talk about it. At MarsCon this year she told me that her editor, Barbara Friend Ish, kicked her third book back 2 times for rewrites. This might have something to do with the quality.

And it’s not just Leona that makes me optimistic. I have Shadow Ops: Control Point, the new book by Myke Cole, The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett, and The Blood Of Ambrose by James Enge sitting by my bed. All of these look fantastic and are quelling my fear of books.

Dinner Discussion 1: Micro-analytics

It makes me feel small and little on the inside, and kindles those sensations of self-doubt and social anxiety. It’s like hearing other people you know talk shit about your best friend. Noteably, these are junior high emotions.

Net-travelling today, I started with the Publisher’s Weekly Week Ahead podcast because they briefly mention Saladin Ahmed’s book. Next, I find this Genreville blog site, and from there, they reference many of these types of micro-analytical book bloggers–> which I read for a while and then sadly got up and made myself a sad chicken sandwich, and somewhere between the sad tomato and the sad mustard, I reminded myself that I am an adult. Sad-Sacks that I am.

I understand that there is a time and a place for the ultra-literary picking-apart, over analysis of books, but I hate reading them.

I am a very happy person respecting your reading tastes. I like to hear about peoples’ experiences reading outside their comfort zone, and that’s about as intellectual as I like to get on that subject, thank you very much.

When I read these story-picker-aparter posts I find my shoulders falling in, my head drooping, and if I were in a room of people, I would be That Mute Glowering Girl.

Reading gives me joy and escape, and intellectual and personal growth. I like to learn about what I’m reading, where it fits in the timeline of literature and history, about the author, about where this book fits in an anthropological and sociological sense of place. I mean, I’m not stoopid, thank you.

When I visit these other sites (I do it occasionally just to remind myself), I wonder “Do you like ANYTHING you read? Why read at all if you hate every string of words ever printed? Why do you do something that makes you so miserable?”

Today’s adventure into Crit-Land took me to a many-multi-part pick apart of both the Chronicles of Narnia and the Twilight saga.

Even though Twilight wasn’t my personal schtick, my argument is: how many hundreds of thousands of gals now call themselves voracious readers as a result of these books? Can you really argue with that?

The Chronicles of Narnia were my first fantasy books. My dad gave them to me, like little candies on the path to literacy, one at a time. They allowed me to escape to an imaginary place during a childhood of watching my dad die from a disease that couldn’t be cured. I mean, COME ON! now you’re telling me that I am too stupid to have realized, as an 8-year-old, that these other 8-year-olds tromping through an imaginary forest had very poor time-management and leadership skills? I re-read these again recently, and like Kat’s Catcher in the Rye thoughts, the experience, emotions and meta-reading of these books are VERY DIFFERENT as an adult 20+ years later. Hey all you dumb little kids, did you pick up on these minor plot inconsistencies or subtle metaphors?

And then, this same blog has an extremely popular post with statistics showing how women authors are shunned by the industry. Ok, maybe, but I find it really hard to not dismiss that entire argument when they pick apart–sentence by sentence–really!– one of the Most Bestselling Fantasy Books to Women Under 25 (my assumption there), movie notwithstanding.  Ooohhh…now I’m really mad.

My point in summation: let’s pretend that I’m a 14 year old girl reading her first fantasy book ever, and I find that I really like it and I head out looking for more. Then I find these kinds of micro-pick-apart articles that suggest to me that I should have been smart enough to know that I shouldn’t have liked Twilight. End.

Please. Enough.

Emergency Book Giveaway.

Complete boxed set of the Chronicles of Narnia. Comment on THIS POST, all commenteers will be piled in a bin and one will be drawn on Monday at noon.

But the discussion–Now that you know my opinion, WHAT SAY YOU?

Nothing magical here: Explorer Challenge First Fail.

Note: This is an extremely atypical post for Darkcargo.com, but as it was a selection for the Explorer Challenge, the author is the 2011 Campbell award winner, it was mentioned in the Library Journal article, and I suspect the next novel in this series to be on the Hugo nominee list next year, I thought I had enough reasons to give my two cents about this title.

First choice for my participation in the Explorer Challenge was The Magicians by Lev Grossman: new author + Library Journal article category. This author and these books have been pinging on the radar screen quite a bit as the second in the series, The Magician King has recently released.

I picked it up on audio and have been listening to it at least once a day. The audio is fine. Mark Bramhall does a fine job.

I don’t understand what the hubbaloo is all about. What am I missing?

I don’t find it creative. I’m listening to this story and it is as though Grossman has taken his favorite stories, plopped them into a KitchenAid, and put a new label over each of the terms unique to the original novels. It is the Kids from Hogwarts–whose favorite books are the fake Chronicles of Narnia– go to Xavier’s School for the Gifted, and become alcoholic college kids. There’s a theory that “everything old is new again”, that all the stories there are to be told in the world have already been told and all we do is re-write them, but The Magicians is just stupid. The only possible saving grace for this book is the idea that maybe Grossman really intended to plagarise all these ideas as a satire.

They don’t play Quiddich, they play Welters. The kids aren’t separated into Houses, they’re separated into Disciplines. Quentin’s favorite books are the Fillory novels, the premise for these books being that a few special kids get whisked away repeatedly to a wonderland of magic and enchantment where they have adventures with talking beasts, where time passes differently than it does in the “real” world. And so on.

Without giving the story away, it seems that the hook in the tale might be that the main character has overstepped the rules of magic and created a Bad Event which kills one of the students, throwing a dampening blanket of post Tri-Wizard Tournament measures over the students & school. He doesn’t tell anyone that he thinks he’s caused this event, and the trajectory of the story expects the guilt to eat him up and make him who he is as an adult.  Ok, so now we’ve thrown Ursula K LeGuin’s Earthsea series into the KitchenAid.

Aside from the uninventiveness of the story and the world-building, the story is full of characters that I hate already by chapter 10. They’re always getting drunk, complaining, and whining. They’re self absorbed, pretentious and absurd. Their ennui simply kills any speed the narration has.

Truly. What am I missing here? I’m abandoning this, and so I am at -1 for the Explorer Challenge.

(They’re out playing this Welters game): “Elliot disappeared for twenty minutes and came back with six bottles of a very dry Fingerlakes Reisling he’d apparently been saving for just such an emergency, in two tin buckets full of melting ice. He hadn’t thought to bring any glasses, so they swigged straight from the bottle. Quentin still didn’t have much of a capacity for alcohol…”  blah blah snore.

Bitchin’ about a Book

Robert Jordan. Wheel of Time. The Eye of the World. What the hell? The book’s Wikipedia page says that Mr. Jordan consciously intended to make strong allusions to the Lord of the Rings [citation needed].

But, IT HURTS! IT HURTS SO MUCH!

I mean “Mat” and “Perrin”? why not just call them Merry and Pippin? And don’t even get me started on Black (or Dark) Riders and Trollic/Orcs.
Someone please leave me a note and tell me its just a touching homage and that the rest of the series is worthwhile…’cause I’m having a doubt right now.