Wednesday, March 28, 2012

I always finish the book.

Always.  (Well, almost)

When I was in high school, I was assigned Wuthering Heights.  Tried to read it twice.  Failed twice.  Later, as an ESL teacher, two of my students decided that they wanted to read Wuthering Heights. Having never read it, and working full time as a house painter while I taught, I had no time (nor inclination) to read this book. So I downloaded an audiobook, and finally made it through the damn thing.

I always finish the book.  Always.

Incidentally, those kids hated the book as much as I and decided to read something else.  Frankenstein, if I recall correctly.  I wasn't mad.  I had finally finished the book.

I also always finish the series.  Almost always.  I read all the Narnia books though they were preachy and predictable and derivative and fond of deus ex machina and general suckiness.  But I finished the fuckers.

I'm reading Westerfeld's Leviathan books.  Loved Pullmans Golden Compass books.  Read the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy every five years or so.  Also read all the Night Watch Books.  And Encyclopedia Brown when I was a kid.  You get the picture.

There have been exceptions.  Some quite surprising: Clive Barker, for instance.  Others make sense: history books, philosophy texts, collections of short stories, collections of essays.  These are books I dip into, or take what I need, or read until I'm exhausted or angry.  And eventually, I finish most of them.

One of the best things about my job is its solitude (Stay with me. I know what I'm doing.)  When I get to work, I say good morning, assess my situation, and turn on my iPod.  On an ideal day, that good morning is the last thing I say to anyone until the family gets home at night.  I listen to a lot of music, a lot of podcasts, occasional radio drama, and a lot of audiobooks.

I've listened to some great stuff while driving: Ian Fleming, George R. R. Martin, Douglas Adams, and Tina Fey, for instance.  Librivox, the library and occasional piracy has been good to me.

I've also listened to some crap.  And I don't know why.

I can't fucking stop.  And I don't know why.

Terry Goodkind is not a bad storyteller. His story is fairly compelling, and some of his characters are admirable and interesting.  His villains are not one-dimensional.  His heroes are not completely virtuous.

But holy shit this guy needs a competent editor.

I'm not saying I'm great or that my writing is flawless.  And I clearly understand the uses of the narrative devices of repetition and parallel structure.  And I admit that I am prone to rambling and diversions.

Goodkind is prone to repetition and unnecessary explanation.  His characters stumble to deduce the obvious and to accept the evident.  The protagonists are as sneaky as four-year-olds, and still manage to outsmart the bad guys (who seem incapable of understanding that good guys are ever sneaky).  The dialogue is usually stilted and speechy, with characters launching into great monologues in the middle of arguments, while the others sit mute.  They also repeat themselves, ask rhetorical questions (over and over), and explain to each other things that they should already understand (which is, I know, a less obvious way to explain it to the dimmer reader).  The jokes are weak and prissy, even among soldiers.  And everyone seems to be a prude, which irritates me more than even I can understand.

Furthermore, Goodkind is preachy and prone to clumsy allegory.  The bad guys in these books, the Imperial Order, are clearly communists, which seems a silly bogeyman even to a guy who has read/listened to all the James Bond books two or three times each.

And I can't fucking stop listening to these terrible, terrible books.  And I can't understand why.

Part of it, I'm sure, is the story, which as I said is not bad.  But most of it, I suspect, is stubbornness.  I'm not going to let these books, these wooden characters, this juvenile prose, and this goofy conservative narrator beat me.

Because, goddamn it, I always finish the book.


(This has been an experiment.  I've written this on my phone while my computer was otherwise occupied.  I apologise for formatting irregularities and spelling mistakes or typos.)

Sent wirelessly from my BlackBerry device on the Bell network.

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