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Another.. OK, the second in ten years... book review from maddad; Nevil Shute, A Town Like Alice

4/25/2014

I practice a weird way of reading. I have project books, that I read over a long period of time, and Airport books, that I read in a couple of hours. I read a LOT of airport books, and these are the type of crap that I need to get me from one hop to the next on my latest adventure into the mid-west and southeast US. My project books can be difficult, and get me through my daily necessary and those days that I'm feeling lazy enough to sit and read (no days any more, in other words). My current project is my old friend Herodotus, since I finished Grant's Memoirs and the first book of Sandburg's Lincoln. I've got the Bhagavad Gita and the Odyssey on deck, calling to me from the window of my Kindle like Amsterdam whores (keep reading, you'll see where this goes), so I read a page here and there and want to quit old Herodotus, but I can't. ( I blame whatshername duckface from the English Patient) I don't, however, have a current fave in the shit-book department. Jack Reacher? Done. George HHR STP DDT Martin? Waiting out the series. Good old Clive Cussler and family? I can't tell one hero from the other any more. Horror books? Meh. Cheeky Vampires? Whatever. Hard boiled Private Eyes? Find me one. Science Fiction? I don't need preaching any more than I need to be depressed, so no more McCarthy either. I have been let down by the crap fiction gods and lately have been drowning in a sea of Netflix and technical manuals, and trust me, this sucks. There is nothing worse than having an hour long flight, followed by a forty minute layover, followed by another hour long flight and not having anything to read. The in-flight magazine lasts about as long as the taxi to takeoff, you can only play bejeweled on your phone so many times before your vision goes blurry and SkyMall, while entertaining, is seriously lacking in character development. So the other week, after I lost my running battle with the employment gods and had to take an unscheduled trip, I had to dig deep in the old Kindle and find something, anything, to keep me from killing and eating my seatmates. I decided I'd start alphabetical by title, in the downloaded documents section. Where I keep the fiction books from the library. The first on the list was A Town like Alice. A book I had skipped over about a thousand times because the cover art looked too much like "Lovely Bones" and I didn't want to kill myself. I shouldn't have worried. After a slow start of fifteen or so boring as hell pages of exposition, the good part started and lasted for almost three-quarters of the book. A really amazing story. And yet, after I got to that three-quarter point I didn't want to read any more. Imma tell you why. Modern fiction telegraphs its punches. Horrible things must happen. If your character is happy, he/she/it must be emotionally destroyed or the book is no good. Kill the dog, shoot the horse. Run gramma or the lover over with an ice cream truck. Have Dad beat up Mom or run away, introduce the girlfriend with the funny uncle. Burn down the house, move the family away from the boy's first love, have the girl grow up and stop believing in magic. Kill it, smash it, make it cry and take home BANK! Three-quarters in to A Town like Alice, I knew the ending. I KNEW something terrible was going to happen, and I didn't want to read it. I was disappointed and angry. I felt cheated and like I had wasted my time and energy. I wanted to write a letter to the author, Nevil Shute, and call him horrible names. I even started to write a dismissive blog post! But then one night at dinner I had one too many Shiner Bocks and spent most of the next morning on the hotel crapper. I had to read something. So I bore down (literally and figuratively) and finished the book. I recommend you do to, if you read it. (Not literally, unless your intestines rebel at any more than three Texan beers like mine do. Please, if you start reading this book, push through to the end.) While it may feel as though ol' Nevil got tired of writing and wanted to wrap up the story in a nice shiny bow, it's a good ending, and I'm glad I read it. The cleaning staff at the hotel? Probably not so much, but they probably read that crazy-ass Latin fiction that really sucks, but because the author's an unapologetic communist they'll give him the Nobel Prize. And it does suck, and yes I have read it. ( A Hundred Years of Slogging Through Bullshit that Sophomore Lit Students Think is Awesome, Memories of My Melancholy Whores (because I liked the title), and Love in a Time of Cholera (I begged for sweet death), are mind-numbing exercises in public masturbation (and this, from a blogger!), not good stories, and just plain, really, really ,bad. And I swear to all that's holy I won't get suckered into reading, or re-reading, any more of Marquez's shit, just because he died.. I probably will, but I'll hate myself, and when you see me moaning and covered in feces, you know I've been trying like hell to diagram a sentence from one of those god-awful books so that I have SOME FUCKING idea who is doing what and when.) So go hit the library, get the Alice book and read it, you'll get no spoilers from me.
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2 Comments:

Blogger The Dodgy Prawn said...

"SkyMall, while entertaining, is seriously lacking in character development" What a great line. I am exploring blogs at the moment and that was the best line I have seen all night. You have brought me joy!

10:23 PM

 
Blogger Maddad said...

I am complete. Now I can quit.

That's honestly the greatest comment I've received in ten years of this. Thank you. You have brought me joy too.

3:28 PM

 

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