Monday, 5 October 2009

Ennui

I didn't mean to be away for so long, but over the summer I've been suffering from ennui. Not sure what bought it on, except that I seemed that I've spent most of this year dealing with the same old problems and, well, its frustratingly annoyingly boring.

The good news is that as the first leaves began to plummet from the trees the ennui lifted as otherwise I could have been forced into the usual literary cure of an entanglement with an unsuitable, but dashing, man ... hmmm ...

But I digress.

As you'll see from the updated reading list, I've still been reading, but with the ennui and all that, my reading pace has slowed. So I thought I would share the following review, and yes I did really read the new Dan Brown - it was presented to me by a friend, who loved it, as a pre-MA treat (did I mention that in an attempt to lift the ennui I signed up for an English MA?). When I pointed out that I'd hated the Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons my objections were swept aside on the basis that I'd read The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail and was bought up Catholic, although my view of the Roman Catholic Church is very jaundiced and not improving - did you see this from the Pope? A new form of colonialism? They need to cast off the old ones first - James Joyce wrote, 'the tyranny of Rome still holds the dwelling place of the soul’ which still holds true today, Rome needs to embrace the twenty first century rather than hanging desperately onto pointless tradition, especially in Africa - but yes I was incensed by Angels and Demons and I thought his writing was a little clunky. And who says that I don't have an opinion on the masons? But I digress.

I am a fast reader, my reading average is around 3½ books per week for fun (this doesn’t include books and texts I have to read) and I can usually read a 500 page or so book in a couple of days. This took me over 3 days to read, not quite my slowest record, but even so, rather than being a ‘page turner’ it was a ‘putter downer’. I persevered to try understand just what it is that makes these books so popular.

The first page reads ‘Fact: In 1991, a document was locked in the safe of the director if the CIA. The document is still there today...The document also contains the phrase “It’s buried out there somewhere”. My first reaction was ‘here we go again’ so I put the book down and went for a very long walk. The thought of my friend, who only reads a book a month, and read this in a day, spurred me on so I picked up the book again.

It’s definitely a book that needs some serious editing and most of these have been detailed already by other reviewers so I won’t bore you, apart to add that my particular annoyances are how he leads the reader by the hand, using full names throughout the text, often tacking on job descriptions, ‘Security Chief Trent Anderson’, we are repeatedly told of a character's ethnicity or size, he reminds us three or four times in the space of a couple of pages that Bellamy is ‘African American’. But my particular favourite is ‘Their father had succumbed to cancer when Katherine was only seven, and she had little memory of him. Her brother, eight years Katherine’s senior and only fifteen when her father died’ - does he assume that his readers can't add or subtract?

As for the plot, as you can see from the side bar, I read a lot of mysteries and thrillers, and the key to these is to keep the reader guessing almost to the end of the book – sadly I guessed one of the major plot twists in the first third of the book, and spent the rest of the time reading the book hoping that Brown would come up with a different solution. Additionally a couple of ‘deus ex machina’ plot twists, which I won’t spoil for anyone yet to read the book - one of which involves a miraculous escape worthy of The Perils of Pauline, which left me screaming and beating the floor in frustration - also made me put the book down and go for very long walks.

As for the characters, I really didn’t care if any of them, including Robert Langdon lived or died.

Eventually, and believe me I've never been so pleased to see the end of a book, I made it through and I still don’t get it. I loved the first two instalments in the Millennium series by the late Stieg Larsson both of which kept me reading far too late into the night - I'm currently reading the third and am finding it hard to put down. I understand why people love the Harry Potter books and I kind of understand why the Twilight series is so popular. But this reads like the bad third instalment in the National Treasure series of films - you know the one that should never be made but everyone is cashing in while they can - don't take this as a criticism of the films I loved them.

5 comments:

belle said...

Oh I am soooo with you on The Lost Symbol ... tedious, poorly edited and irritating in the extreme. Now, tell me about your MA?

BarbaraS said...

Yes, do tell about the MA..!?! I admire you perservering with the book. If I don't like a book in the first chapter it gets thrown over.

riverwillow said...

Belle - so glad I wasn't alone as I keep seeing these reviews which say its 'a page turner' - have just finished 'The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets Nest' which is really a page turner and I've had to restrain myself from reading it into the night!

Barbara - Once I start to read a book I have to finish it - even if it kills me, which a couple of books have come close to doing.

MA - as you know I've returned to our alma mater for their English MA - went off the idea of creative writing as an MA and would rather struggle alone - and as I never quite know where I might be on any day, committing to weekly tutorials is hard. And of course, I can never keep to a timetable as I am supposed to have started on Saturday but work has been mind bogglingly challenging over the last week or so, leaving me with the feel that my head my explode - and the book of literary theory I'm supposed to be reading will finish the job off.

Belle - how goes yours?

Messalina said...

Hey RW,

Glad to see that someone else has a gaps in their writing - I reckon my latest has been bigger than yours though! ;o)

I've just read your posts back to 2006 when I dropped out of the OU world so I could catch up with what you've been up to and, trust me, your reading is out of control Mrs...

Great to see you've been writing - I think that the secret is, if you feel like writing, write - don't question as you write, just blurt it out, edit it later. If you write for hours and only one sentence comes up to the standard you want when you read it back, that's a win! Equally, when you don't feel like writing - don't, and don't sweat it - you'll write when you're ready (if my 3 year writing gap is anything to go by...).

riverwillow said...

Messalina so sorry for the delay in publishing your comment - carnage in my inbox (and my mind)and the really important emails keep getting buried!