Is this one maddening book really significant enough to warrant inclusion in my letter-by-letter Encyclopedia of Me? Probably not. I sure as hell hope not, anyway. But I think this damn book has been in my sidebar ever since Paris Hilton was in jail, and my slow going in getting through it is greatly cutting into my average for the year. I mean, eight books? In ten months? That's really just plain sad.
Don't get me wrong. It's not 100% awful. If it were, I would have thrown it against the wall like I nearly did The Sportswriter at least 200 pages ago. No, it's really not all bad. It's got some clever writing and imagery. Fine passages such as these...
She emphasized what few wanted to accept, that some people did win Trivial Pursuit: The Deity Looks Edition and there wasn't a thing you could do about it, except come to terms with the fact you'd only played Trivial Pursuit: John Doe Genes and come away with three pie pieces.* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
As Dad once said, there were people who'd completely missed their decade... This kid was [born] some twenty years too late. He was the one with thick brown hair that flying-saucered over an eye, the one who inspired girls to make their own prom dress, the one from the country club. And maybe he had a secret diamond earring, maybe a sequin glove, maybe he even had a good song at the end with three helpings of keyboard synthesizer, but no one would know, because if you weren't born in your decade you never made it to the ending, you floated around in your middle, unresolved, in oblivion, confused and unrealized. (Pour some sugar on him and blame it on the rain.)* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
It was one of those snapshots that seemed to have trapped not only an image but a grainy reel of life--their ponytails were full of static, strands of hair cobwebbed in the wind. You could almost hear their laughs twisting together.* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Dad was right. There was something riveting about the kid. It was his outdated earnestness, the way his eyebrows did the polka when he talked and his mountain accent, which made the words jut out like pointy, slippery rocks on which he might get hurt. It was also the thousands of copper freckles dusting him head to toe as if he'd been dipped in glue, then in fine, penny-iridescent confetti.
...But I also have to agree with the Amazon.com editorial review, which had this to say...
Hunkering down for 514 pages of frantic literary exhibitionism turns into a weary business for the reader, who after much patient effort deserves to feel something stronger than appreciation for a lot of clever name-dropping and a rush of metaphors.Amen, Washington Post. I do deserve that, don't I? I deserve, at the very least, a plot... particularly an interesting one that actually progresses reasonably steadily, without being buried in unnecessary detail. By page 315, I really ought to have some handle on what's going on. I also really ought to care about the characters--or at least be able to remember which is which. I ought to want to know what happens because the story has been compelling me to know more, not because I've invested so many reading hours and feel some payback is due to me for that.
After I heard Nancy Pearl speak at the Minneapolis library last year, I decided her "Rule of 50" wasn't a bad idea after all. Life's too short to read a book that doesn't grab me, when there are so many other wonderful books for me to devour. Right now, though, I'm sort of thinking a Rule of 300 applies as well. That is, once I've slogged through over 300 pages, it's a point of no abandonment; I have to charge through to the end.
What do you think... When you start a book, do you need to finish it? How far into a book are you still willing to chuck it aside? After 50 pages? 100? When you're past the halfway point? What is your rule on this? And if you agree with the e-mail Lara sent me last week, lecturing me to "give up on Calamity Physics already, Stefanie," then will one of you please sneak into my house and just steal this damn book* from my bedside table to free me of it already? I think an intervention is in order. It may be my only hope.
* Kidding! Only kidding, really! Please, please, PLEASE don't come and terrify me like this.