Saturday, December 22, 2012

Gift for Christmas

Not for me, mind you.  I already own it.

I'm right in the middle of Bringing Up the Bodies, the second of Hilary Mantel's Thomas Cromwell/Henry the 8th trilogy, and it is great.  Better than Wolf Hall, which is the first one.  The third is still, I suppose, in the writing stage.

If it were me, I'd buy a loved one a copy of Wolf Hall.  I read it over the summer, because I'd heard great things about Bringing Up the Bodies (and, honestly, who wants to read the second book of a trilogy without reading the first?), and I complained about it for the entire month it took me to read it.  A month!  It took me a month to read the goddam book!  Maybe even six weeks.  Honestly, I think it was the most annoying book I've ever read.  Mantel's strange prose style frequently makes it impossible to tell who is speaking at a given time.

Sure, there are perhaps moments in every novel when you glance back on the page to clarify who the speaker might be.  With Wolf Hall I found myself re-reading pages -- PAGES! -- in order to figure out who the hell was saying what.  And about whom.  To whom.  I repeat:  It was the most annoying book I've ever read.

Quick aside:  Just to make sure it wasn't me, I went on Amazon and arbitrarily read the first two reviews.  Both agreed.

And yet, once I was done reading, and re-reading, and sometimes re-reading for a third time, its 700+ pages, I couldn't stop thinking about it.  Manoman, it really stuck with me.

Thus the recommendation.

And then, dear reader, a funny thing happened.  I finished reading the fifth Game of Thrones novel (which was its own slog, although way better than the third and fourth books), then I turned to something light and quick -- Formula 1 mechanic Steve Matchett's memoir of life on the F1 pit lane.  Then, refreshed, I was ready for whatever Ms. Mantel was going to throw at me.  And a funny thing happened.

Somebody, likely her editor, said something like this to her:

"Yo Hillary.  Nobody expected Wolf Hall to be such a big success, but now that it is, its time to rethink your obnoxious fucking prose style.  Because the boys on the 23rd floor tell me they would rather put glass in their eyes than go through another 700 pages like the first one.  So clean it up or hit the highway."

As if.  But still, she obviously got the message.  Bringing Up the Bodies is way smoother reading.  But you have to read Wolf Hall first.

So I guess it's like being a Navy SEAL.
How so?
Well, it's cool to be one, but you have to go through a load of shit to get there.
Nicely said.  Exactly right.


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