Thursday, February 25, 2010

Cannonball Read 2 #24: Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison

I loaned this book to a friend, who read about half of it and then returned it saying, "Is nothing supposed to happen?" It's true that it's not a particularly exciting book--there are no explosions, hurricanes, or robot invasions. However, I found the story of Ruth Anne "Bone" Boatwright--a girl born into tough circumstances in a rough-and-tumble "white trash" family in South Carolina--to be utterly riveting.

The Boatwright clan is described brilliantly, and Bone's numerous aunts and uncles (as well as her mama, the youngest of the group) all take on a brightly-colored life of their own. Bone's coming of age story, her attempts to both fit in to her family and to perhaps find a way to rise above it, are excellent. Although it's not a happy story, as life never seems to cut Bone a break, it does a great job of illustrating her careful navigation of family dynamics. Bone has to discover her place, take her knocks, and "become a Boatwright."

I like Allison's style, and the character of Bone has a strong, distinctive voice. As I said, the descriptions of the family are quite good, and make what could be a difficult task (keeping track of all those aunts, uncles, and cousins) easier. On the whole, a great book for those who enjoy quiet character studies.

(The film version starring Jena Malone, Ron Eldard, and Jennifer Jason Leigh is also quite good and I highly recommend it.)

Cannonball Read 2 #23: The Sittaford Mystery by Agatha Christie

Another Agatha Christie murder mystery. This time, the plucky female heroine is out to discover who murdered her fiance's estranged uncle and pinned the crime on the aforementioned fiance. The plot has many twists and turns, though this one seemed slightly more far-fetched some of the previous books I've read. In general it was a serviceable little mystery but nothing to cross the street for.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Letter to An Author (Cannonball Read 2 #22 - Song of Susannah by Stephen King)

Dear Stephen,

I have been a huge fan of your work for many years (not your "number one fan"...ha ha...but a fan, nonetheless.) I've read nearly all of your books, and I've enjoyed the majority of them. In fact, IT is probably my favorite book ever, and I think I've read it upwards of twenty times. Many of your other books have also warranted being read multiple times. Please don't think I'm just some hater who doesn't know what she's talking about.

I have always defended your work. When people have complained about your over-verbosity, I have countered by pointing out your excellent descriptions. When people have noted your tendency toward cliche, I have countered with your gripping characters. I have defended you against charges of repetition, overindulgence, and lack of editing. I've argued against those who said you had lost it after you got run over. I have even defended you regarding your near total inability to properly end a story (A giant spider? Alien children? Nuclear explosion?) despite the fact that it's almost totally true. I have even defended you regarding Dreamcatcher, and that thing was a complete disaster (Assweasels. That's all I have to say about that. Assweasels.)

However, you have finally lost me. Oh, I'm not saying I'm not going to read your writing again, nor am I saying that I am going to throw out my rather extensive collection of your work. I am just saying you've finally done something I find completely indefensible, and I am PISSED THE FUCK OFF about it. You WROTE YOURSELF INTO THE GUNSLINGER SAGA! That is inexcusable. I was thoroughly loving those damn books, and then you committed the worst authorial sin--the sin of arrogance. This is not like your penchant for taking on cameo roles in films of your work--I find that more endearing than arrogant. But making yourself (and your past self, so you are piling slightly self-righteous hindsight onto the pile of things that are wrong with it) an integral character in a world I was so utterly enjoying is just WRONG. I loved the characters--Roland, Susannah, Jake, and especially Eddie, as well as being happy to see Father Callahan--and was digging the story and then "Ha ha! It is I, your author Stephen King! I am here to point out how awesome I am and how this story is all about ME! Bet you didn't realize it, but I am the AUTHOR and CREATOR and LOOK AT ME HERE I AM LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME!"

Damn it. It's indefensible, I tell you.

I am going to forgive you, because I truly do enjoy most of your work and think you are a great talent. However, this letter is to let you know that you are ON NOTICE, BUSTER. Shanannigans of this nature will not be tolerated a second time.

Yours sincerely,

Caustic Critic