18 May, 2010

Greater Joy

The Whole Wide Beauty

Emily Woof

Apparently, so the blurb tells me, Emily Woof is a British actress; i looked her up on Wikipedia, out of interest, when i first began this Early Reviewer book, and discovered that her father was director of the Wordsworth Trust, based in the Lake District, and a well known scholar; it is surely of interest that the (female) protagonist’s father is director of a poetry based foundation, is lives in or near the Lake District, and is well known for constantly raising funds. I am moved to wonder just how much else of the book is based on reality. Katherine, the protagonist, became a dancer against the wishes of her father; Woof became an actress, and i wonder how Robert Woof felt about that. Katherine has an affair with one of the protégés of her father. One just has to wonder how much is imagination and how much confession.

Enough speculation, and on to the book itself. Did i enjoy it? Well, yes, i rather think that i did. There is a lot in it, some of wisdom, plenty of observation, and sufficient of reality in character-building to make it worth the read. In turn: Wisdom, Katherine has found it necessary to find her own way in life, in that she has been untouched by poetry, her father’s muse, to the extent that when she hears it, it really has no meaning for her, so her own creativity has been focussed on something entirely different, physical creativity, rather than intellectual, but this is not portrayed as simply an act of rebellion, more of the necessity of finding one’s own way in the world. Observation, both of a character (especially Katherine and David) and their motives, and of the world, is all through the book; i wonder if the fact that Woof is an actress impacts on that, as she has had to observe in order to reproduce in her work. Reality, especially, as i say, in building the characters, is rife: I found all the actions and reactions of the characters rang true, and i was able to understand why they did the things they did, even without explanations, because they were real people; that is a huge point for me, in a book, because all too frequently characters do not behave as you might expect ~ not because people don’t, but because they are poorly drawn and motivated ~ not an issue here.

And yet, overall, the book surprised me with its plot developments and character interactions In the end, i have to say that this is a lovely experience, for me, of the Early Reviewers programme ~ unlike my previous!

16 May, 2010

Oh. My. Gosh.



James L. Rubart

I have eaten tripe. When i was taking a course on Early Sixteenth Century Poetry while at university we had a banquet, of sorts, and tripe was one of the dishes served. I seem to remember that it was chewy, tasteless, rather a struggle to eat, and not really worth it. I was not defeated, however, and ate it.

This tripe has defeated me. It thus enters very limited company: Over the past ten years i have read well over a thousand books and, in that time, i can think of four that i have not finished ~ it’s almost a point of pride with me to finish a book i start.  Princess Casamassima defeated me so far, though i think i’ll probably go back to it again one day; Crichton’s Disclosure and Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man both dragged me down; and a book from Asimov’s Foundation series written by someone other than him just wasn’t worth it. And now this.

I’m some five chapters into Rooms and i don’t care if the protagonist lives or dies. Really. He has absolutely no interest for me. Oh, he’s an immensely successful software tycoon. So? Oh, someone’s given him a house. So? It’s perfect for him. So what: I don’t care. I don’t even know that it is perfect for him, because i don’t know anything about him. The author, James L. Rubart, i believe this is his first published work, has given me nothing to make me want to go on learning about Micah Taylor: He’s not an attractive character, he has some mystery in his past but what it is isn’t clear, he doesn’t know why he’s been given this house, doesn’t really seem to care, but is willing to put everything on hold while he explores it. Well, i’m not.

I have read ~ and finished! ~ books before where i have not cared for the protagonist, but in those cases the level of writing is enough to draw me it while i learn to care. Not here. This is written at just a hair above the “Dick and Jane” level of elementary school primer. The reader is told everything, shown nothing, which is precisely the reverse of the way it is taught in the most basic of writing classes.

I could go on, but why? I read The Shack, to which this is unwisely compared on the front cover, several times; it’s simple, unrealistic, but compelling. I’ve also read The Screwtape Letters, to which it is also compared, a number of times; it is funny, truthful (if not true), and immensly clever. Rooms is not.