Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Meanspirited Review

The good thing about not having to read something for anything but personal enjoyment is that you can put it down and walk away anytime.  Particularly if you are borrowing it from the library.  It took me three pages to put down Night Film, Marisha Pessl's new book, and walk away.  Which I think is a record.

The worst prose I can remember reading in my entire adult life was the free sample of 50 Shades of Grey that Amazon sent to my Kindle.  And I read all of that, in part because I couldn't organize in my mind the horrible writing and the popular success; in part because I hoped they'd put one dirty scene in the sample, which they didn't.

Me?  I really liked Ms. Pessl's Special Topics in Calamity Physics.  So I went into Night Film with a bit of enthusiasm.  I also love the spelling of her last name.  Pessl.  I just love that.

Now the nastiness:  The book opens with somebody jogging around the Central Park reservoir.  Ms. Pessl writes "Every time I sprinted past one of the iron lampposts, my shadow surged past me, quickly grew faint, then peeled off -- as if it didn't have the nerve to stay."

Are we jogging or are we sprinting?  This really annoyed me, but I'd read less than 250 words at that point, so I continued.

The jogging guy then spies a woman.  Shortly after that Pessl writes, about what she terms "Women of Manhattan," the following sentence and a half:  "... they forgot sometimes they weren't immortal.  They could throw themselves like confetti into a fun-filled Friday night, with no thought as to what crack they fell into by Saturday."

I hated that sentence, particularly the second half.  There seems to be something out of whack with the parallel structure.  Maybe it should have read "... as to what crack they'd find themselves in on Saturday morning."  Something like that.

The jogger is worried that the woman is in trouble.  It is, after all, two in the morning in Central Park.  So he decides to jog another lap of the reservoir and see if she's okay when he comes around.
Who would do that?  Do you know how long it takes to jog a lap around the reservoir?  It's just under two miles.  So, jogging, we're talking between fifteen and twenty minutes.  Sprinting, it's maybe ten minutes.

Why not stop this time around if you're really concerned?  I stopped reading.  Really it was the jogging versus sprinting thing that I couldn't quite get past.  The rest seemed additive.  But I'm too emotionally fragile to expose myself to any more.

If memory serves, this was Pessl's dust jacket photo from her first book ...

... which, I think, was inappropriately sexy for a dust jacket.

What does that have to do with anything?
Nothing, really.  She has a wonderfully shaped nose.
She's hot for a writer.
As opposed to hot for, say, a movie star?
Exactly.  The order goes politician, writer, athlete, Broadway actress, model, Hollywood actress and stripper.  
Great.  Thank you.

I should also admit that I'm waiting for the library to send me an email telling me that Goldfinch is now waiting to be picked up.  And at 800 some pages, I'm going to need the full amount of borrowing time to get through it.  So I didn't want to be stuck half way through Pessl's book and by that time be emotionally invested.

It's like the joke about the old Jewish mother who tells her son she hasn't eaten in a week.  He asks why and she answers, "I didn't want my mouth to be full in case you called."



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