Posts Tagged ‘Books’

Insert Title Here


I have been revisiting my library lately. Not the local city library, no, no. My personal Library. I’ve let it slide the last few years, listlessly adding a book here or there, but never really paying attention to the garbage I was shelving. There is, it turns out, a great deal of literary yuck adorning my shelves. I have read some really awful stuff. In the wake of the death of one of the last of a great generation of American writers, it’s time to take a hard look at the literati of my generation.

Writers at the end of WWI and WWII took their words seriously. From those serious words we understood the nature of war, hate , destruction and lies. We as readers learned about the complexity and underlying sorrow of love. The horror of fear and it’s effects on those in the vicinity of one suffering it.

Those writing from the eighties onward have rarely offered a glimpse of anything that hasn’t already been imagined. American writers have spent the last thirty years or so whining. Occasionally we come across a rare find of introspection but really there is very little to recommend. I think it’s because we have stopped taking anything seriously. Writers now are less inclined to discuss their words and more inclined to tell you how their book tour went. They are no longer discussing technique and more often talking about money or how the publisher screwed them. They talk in a grandiose fashion about their ‘inspirations’ but refuse or are unable to discuss the mechanics of writing.  It’s become an embarrassment of greed and self aggrandizement.

What gets published is often un-readable. Or readable, but the words leave the reader nothing to hold. Most contemporary American books I have forgotten almost as soon as I put the book down. Unforgivable really. The author has just wasted my time. They’ve left me nothing to think about. Nothing to ponder or consider. I’ve been fed 75,000 words of subtraction stew.  And yes, I could have put the book down and walked away. The sad fact is I never put the book down. It’s rude to the characters, even if they are badly drawn.

Where did our writers go? Where did those with insight and curiosity get off to? My generation spawned American Psycho and Bright Lights, Big City, both acceptable books but not deep books. They may inspire a thin sort of horror but they don’t make us think beyond the moment. Like Faulkner, like Fitzgerald, Like Vonnegut or Salinger.  I suspect those days of deep insight and its communication are gone. We no longer hold the writer in awe because the current American writer is unable to talk about anything outside themselves in depth.

It’s just sad.




Missed me didn’t ‘cha? And now you expect me to wax on about the New Year and all of my goals. Perhaps you are reading this expecting a list of some best or worst. Well, I’m cranky and you are not getting it.

How ’bout a book review instead.Of a book published 3-4 years ago.

I am a huge fan of dystopian literature. I read Brave New World at thirteen and loved it. I’ve worn out several copies over the years. The same goes for A Clockwork Orange , a book that has been strangely prophetic.  This being the case I tend to snatch up any books that promise me a twisted vision of how the world will be. Recently I read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.


Where have all the writers gone?   Honestly, the whole book reads like a bad episode of Survivorman. The characters spend every waking moment foraging and being cold. By the third chapter I had to wrap up in a blanket in sympathy. A gray blanket. Because McCarthy’s entire world is gray. Gray ash, gray water, gray land, gray people. It’s a newsprint world. And yes I understand tone so just put your little snarky comments back in your pocket.  The only light that appears for the main character is his son. Got it. It’s just overkill. 287 pages of gray is a bit much. And overdone in literature. Killing color is the first sign of a dystopian book. That’s how you know it’s really a book about ‘a brave new world’.  And I will skip over the zombie like humans who are eating others to survive. While it makes a queer kind of sense,  it also lends a little sub genre reality that isn’t really nessacery.  He also never tells us why the world went up in flames, as if it weren’t important. Readers are supposed to surmise an apocalypse of some kind but he never states even briefly what it is. Even Lord Of  The Flies gives us a vague ‘war’. Forgive me but if you  are going to torch the entire earth don’t you think a little detail like how it happened is important?

My real issue is the writing. Oy! The writing. How how did this book win a Pulitzer? How? Who is on the committee?

This book is really badly written. The second sentence of the first chapter could have been written by a bright third grader. It jars. And not in a ” look this is where I leave a symbol so you can guess what I am talking about” kind of way. No, it just jars. Other sentences throughout the book also caused me to say to myself “wait, what?” Forcing me to re-read entire swaths of pages to reset the images presented. I find this unpleasant when I am reading and usually avoid books that do it on purpose. I just don’t think McCarthy was doing it on purpose. It doesn’t flow well at all. The repetitious use of words and actions slow the reading down to a crawl. I have always understood repetition to be a literary device, three and out. More than that and you aren’t being artistic, you need a thesaurus. And the timing is poor. Of course this is an issue I have with a lot of contemporary American literature. We, as American writers , seem to have forgotten the basic flow of a story. It goes like this:  beginning, middle, end. Not beginnnnnnninnng, mid,e. Or my other favorite, beginnnnnnnning,m,ennnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd. It’s not artistic to screw with a readers expectations in such a way as to make your book difficult to read, even if the story is intriguing. It’s  damn irritating.

So yeah, could have been better. A lot better. The basic story is good, there are  just too many distractions in the writing to make it something I would slog through more than once.

Happy Dystopian New Year to you and your flesh-eating zombies.