Friday, January 16, 2009

Reader as goat: A minor crisis

I recently noted on my blog (Read and Drive) that my reading tastes are a tad eclectic--that I’m something of an omnivore. My son replied no, Mom, you’re a goat.

He has some evidence for this view. I have licensed his computer to access my Audible account--my secret audiobook list. He knows the full scope of my reading (listening) shame. I’m sure that it seems, looking at that list, that I might read anything, that I have no scruples.

My latest audiobook listen has left me contemplating that possibility: Heartsick by Chelsea Cain.

I do have reasons for choosing books. I think the reasons for purchasing Heartsick were something like this:
  • I do have a certain interest in serial killer novels. Recently I’ve been interested both in the books and the series Dexter. Horrifying, you both think and laugh about serial killing.
  • Cain is a Northwest writer. The book is set in Portland. I was living in Seattle in the 70s when Ted Bundy was killing here and in Utah when he was killing there. And recently we had the Green River killer. The Northwest should have a good serial killer character in fiction. And I support Northwest writers when I can.
  • The book was fairly well reviewed as a first novel.
  • The serial killer is a woman. Compared to Hannibal. Okay, I’m hooked.
So why the crisis? I was pretty annoyed by the writing and by the narrative plotting. I was prepared to review this with an enthusiastic thumbs down (okay, so I’m reviewing on LibraryThing and Facebook and I do realize no one cares). And yet today I did some google reading about Cain and purchased her sequel. Have I no principles? Am I easy?

The goat annoyed:
  • The writing was too clunky, overwrought and explained. I’m annoyed when I find myself thinking about the writing. With a really good book, I rarely even think about writing the first time through. I was often thinking about the writing, the plot--and not the characters and the story.
  • I am a willing suspender of disbelief. I understand this is the basic release that makes pleasure in reading possible. But this book pushed me way beyond my endurance. A scary book is scariest when the steps that lead there have been dipped in a dose of reality. This book continually tested (and trashed) my patience.
  • Way too much gore. Now I understand that I read this book partly because of the comparison to Hannibal. But there is a point at which the imagination rules and the explicit, relentless explainer diminishes the narrative. I’m a forgiving reader, but often I was horrified and not enough intrigued.
  • Byronic hero. This must convince me. I am a fan of Byron himself after all. What I like about Dexter is the humor. Laughing at death and gore makes me think, implicates me. This hero is just way too romantic and serious and tortured. I want to love him and to sympathize. But often I just groaned and checked how many minutes to the end. Maybe it’s harder to sympathize with love story and serial killer than I imagined. And give me a break with that pill box!
And why, goat, did you finish the book and buy the sequel?
  • Okay. The relationship with victim and victimizer did engage me. Though please, the little side bar about the Stockholm Syndrome--Patty hearst, etc. Who hasn’t heard about this who would conceivably read a book.
  • Northwest. I’m still trying to be a fan. That’s a big part of this.
  • And again, I read the reviews. They tell me she’s getting better.
  • And, as Nathan says, I’m a goat.
And so, today, I bought Sweetheart, the sequel. Stay tuned.

1 comment:

Lisa B. said...

Hilarious. I will say, however, that there are limits. I read Twilight because a kid said to read it, and I'm not sorry I did, because I got to be part of the zeitgeist, and I could mock it with some credibility. However, when I picked up the next one, I could only read a few pages because IT IS SO TERRIBLE.

Please do update on the sequel! Sometimes writers do get better as they go on.