Literary disappointments.

I read a literary novel last night.  It was all about space and geological time, and personal history and guilt.  Critics labeled the book “visionary,” “profound,” “searingly fantastic,” “a masterpiece”

It was alright.

The author, a female British writer (I’ll give that much away), has written several other books, and came highly recommended both from The Guardian (though they love most British writers) and from two reliable reader friends.  I’m not sure if this work is the most representative of her writing.

The language is poetic: it bears none of the clunky dialogue and narrative description that usually persuades me to give up on a book.  Nevertheless, the work feels contrived: the author attempts to include all the hallmarks of a literary book (all those themes of guilt and history, etc., mixed up with vulgar banter and semi-autobiographical interludes).  All of it was enough to disengage me, both thoughtfully and emotionally, from the text.  The one moment that is truly intelligent and poignant, that would have made a wonderful ending, is undermined by twenty more “literary” pages that seemed designed to make sure we get the point of the novel.

Or maybe, writing in a theme series for a certain publisher, she had a page-set quota.  Or maybe the writer simply overwrote the parable-like tone of the story.  Or maybe I’m too cynical.

I’m going to go read some of The English Grammar to cheer myself (up).

17 May 2009 ~ St. Catharines


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