Monday, April 26, 2010

A record speedy book abandonment

I usually give a book 50 pages to hook me (100 pages if it is a fantasy novel, for some of those the first 50 pages is the prologue.) I picked up the Raw Shark Texts and read this on page one:

The shudder-hacking violence of no air then too much knocked me dizzy, sent the floor tilting away under my fingers. Static behind my eyes bacteria-swarmed dangerously towards another blackout and, snow blind and shaking, I pushed my wet mouth down tight into the palms of my hands, trying to pull controlled, steady breaths through my fingers -

Done on page one. There is no way in hell I can stand to read that sort of cutesy playful language, especially when the book is at least partially inspired by one of the greatest waste of trees, the House of Leaves. As Harris noted earlier, the literary world is trying to convince us that purposefully obtuse writing is good and that if you don't like it, you just aren't smart enough. I'll just be old fashioned and look to writers like Ian McEwan who can actually tell a story and use language to communicate emotion and understanding, rather than over the top metaphor and pop cultural allusion.

NB, I also put down a genre book as well. CJ Cherryh's Foreigner. She really needs an editor on that one.


Paul Puglisi said...

I didn't even pick that book up. And as for House of Leaves, I guess I'm not smart enough.

As you say there is obtuse writing that tries to sound complex and erudite and fails miserably and there is complex writing that still is able to communicate its intentions. House of Leaves and its ilk are the former.

Hell, Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series is a sea of words and yo need to pay attention and need a nautical vocabulary but at least he can tell a story and make the words fit.

Tripp said...

You are wiser than me Paul. My only defense, weak though it may be, is that I got the book on trade credit. Which is where it is going next.

You are right regarding the Aubrey and Maturin tales. There the language makes perfect sense and makes the read even more enjoyable.