Yeah, no

So now I’m reading several things, can’t get swept away. Right now I’m sleeping with A Peace to End All Peace, by David Fromkin, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie, and The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien. The latter two are wonderful, wonderful, but so intense I can’t read them in blissful abandon.

Did devour like Cheetos two books last weekend, one a night. Summer People by Brian Groh, and Riding Lessons, by Sara Gruen. But they weren’t great books. Why I wonder? Summer People I had great hopes for since it’s about a guy who goes to take care of an old lady at her summer place in Maine. I thought it would take me back to my days in Maine among wealthy summer people. But the main character was annoying and the old lady he takes care of was totally undeveloped. So it was episodic, occasionally somewhat entertaining, and unsatisfying. But one amazing thing, he has his characters say, “Yeah, no,…blah blah,” a lot and I realize that everyone does indeed say this. Everybody, my new supervisor, Mica Brezinksy, people on the train. Wow! A revelation indeed.

And damn, I was SO disappointed by Riding Lessons. Water for Elephants is one of my all-time favorite books and I can’t believe Sara Gruen leaped from Riding Lessons to Elephants in one jump. That’s certainly heartening for all of us struggling novelists. Part of the problem with RL was the pedestrian plot. Part was using first person present tense, which was often clunky and snapped you out of the narrative. But the main problem was the main character who never gelled for me. First she’s a World Cup eventer. OK, I love this. I’m a horse person and once judged a crosscountry jump at a 3-day event. Then she’s hurt and when we see her next she’s a high-powered IT person. Then turns out before going back to work she was an obsessive suburban housewife creating the perfect home. Then she goes home to her parents’ horse place in Vermont and she’s a bad, angry daughter and mother, and a business slob, and then a ditzy broad who dresses up and tries to cook something fancy and burns her beau’s kitchen down, … damn, what next? Who the fuck is she? My head’s all spinning. Mary Stewart knew how to do this kind of story.

Anyway, maybe I’ll reread Water for Elephants.

SO 2008:

2. Riding Lessons, Sara Gruen
1. Summer People, Brian Groh

Reread:

2. Captain Salt in Oz, Ruth Plumly Thompson
1. Earth Abides, George R. Stewart

5 thoughts on “Yeah, no

  1. I am right in the middle of Absolutely True Diary…, which, I might have mentioned, mysteriously appeared in my hold pile at the library. Yes, intense. I love the character so much, funny and sweet and sad, I think my most favorite thing so far that he says is: “And maybe you’re thinking, ‘Well, you really shouldn’t be talking about masturbation in public.’ Well, tough, I am going to talk about it, because EVERYBODY does it. And EVERYBODY likes it.” Ha! The librarians who pitched a fit over “scrotum” in The Higher Power of Lucky will simply go ballistic. (Has the book been banned anywhere yet?) Who is Sherman Alexie, anyhow? Is his other stuff for grown-ups?

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  2. Oh! And re: “yeah, no,” is this a version of “um”–or, as a guy in my grad school lab used to say, an articulation of the pause? Different groups of people seem to have different articulations of the pause. Scientists (at least the ones I’ve known and heard speak, which, granted, has been a decade ago) say, “So…” Politicians and political analysts (and everyone on 24) say, “Look…,” which, for some reason, drives me batty.

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  3. Yes, Sherman Alexie is a novelist who writes about the rez for adults. This is his first YA. He’s brilliant, that’s for sure.And um, look, yeah, no, is an “articulation of the pause.” What a great way to put it!Have you finished Part-Time Indian?

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  4. <>Have you finished Part-Time Indian?<>Yep, just finished it yesterday. I cried repeatedly. Laughed a lot, too.Re: sweeping-away-ness of books, or your lack of being swept away: I think a lot of what I’ve read in the past few weeks (which is a lot of what you’ve read, though not necessarily in the past few weeks, as I read off your lists) is so much more character-driven than plot-driven. I love character-driven, but maybe tends to be less sweeping away than plot-driven? Part-time Indian has something of a plot arc, but hugely character-driven. Prep, pretty much 100% character-driven, I would say, it almost reads like a series of short stories because there’s so little plot arc. Abundance of Katherines, some plot arc, but mostly character-driven. I wonder if this is a trend in young adult lit? Or just a trend in what I happen to be reading (because you happen to be reading it (-:)?Anyhow! Next up is The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins, so a little non-fiction action.

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