…after looking at this novel today, I most certainly will have to kill someone.
Sitting at Starbucks this morning with Dina, Nathalie, Libby, and Jenny, I noticed Dina had a book with her. It was entitled Into the Storm and was written by someone named Suzanne Brockmann. My curiosity got the better of me and I asked if I could take a look at it. She obliged happily and, as she handed it to me, regaled me (not so much) with a story about her reading habits and how difficult it had been for her to delve into the book as often as she would have liked. I nodded politely while taking the hardback text from her hands.
I read the inset. It sounded tedious and uninteresting. Nevertheless, I flipped through it. It was, after all, a newly published book (August 2006), so glancing through its pages should give me an idea of what’s being tossed into the marketplace these days.
Trite is how I would describe it. No wonder it’s 384 pages. There’s not a single paragraph longer than four sentences—at least that I could find. More disturbingly, I saw more paragraphs consisting of only a single sentence than I did anything longer, and most of those sentences contained fewer than a dozen words.
Even worse than the garbled format more appropriate for a blog entry than a novel was the linguistic style. It lacked any semblance of maturity or serious use of the English language.
Contractions ruled every page. It was “she’d done this” and “they’ll do that” and “he’d thought otherwise” and whatever. Most troubling, the usage was so pedestrian that it sounded like a conversation with a six-year-old delinquent. Perhaps I feel too serious about writing, but I found that kind of lazy transcription to be too common to be good. I realize that makes it an easy read for those incapable of delving into something with real depth, but still…
Setting aside the aforementioned paragraph disaster (I’m sorry, but can you really write a book based on one-sentence paragraphs with a few multi-sentence paragraphs thrown in to break up the page?), she spilled ‘to be’ in practically every sentence. How lazy. My head nearly exploded with fright at the shallow wording, and I pondered exactly what level of education would be necessary to fill (by cheating) nearly 400 pages with ‘to be’ usage in almost every sentence. Okay, it wasn’t that bad, but still…
Dialogue! Sweet Jeebus on a stick. I again remind you I only glanced through 50 or so pages. Despite that, every bit of dialogue I read sounded like every other bit of dialogue I read. None of the characters seemed to possess differentiating speech patterns. My swan! They all sounded just alike, as though pulled from cookie cutters in time to be thrown into a book. When she ran dialogue back to back without specifying who was talking, it was impossible to know and often required me to go back and apply some logical constraint based on who last was mentioned before all the quotes. I won’t call it unreadable, but still…
My first impression based on that short exposure proclaimed it equivalent to the Darkness Comes to Kingswell short story. And that was a draft, for fuck’s sake. The languid narrative begged to die so it would not suffer any longer. It felt like something thrown together in haste—something I at least said up front was the case, but she sold it as a novel! What the hell! Scribbling hopscotch squares on a sidewalk often carries more literary expertise than I saw between the pages of that overpriced fodder for wood-burning fireplaces. I know I’m being a tad bit harsh, but still…
I handed the novel (that word used very loosely, mind you) back to Dina. Brief exposure might have burned my brain cells or crippled my ability to utilize advanced language skills (such as complex and compound sentences, big words [anything larger than five letters from what I could tell], true paragraph assignments [where very few of them are built from five-word sentences, for instance], and several other aspects of writing that escaped her entirely). It sullied me, tainted me somehow. I pulled a Howard Hughes and came home right away, stripped to my birthday suit, and spent hours scrubbing my skin with Brillo pads hoping to eliminate the book’s residue I feared had infected me in the short time I held and read it. I know that’s an exaggeration, but still…
If slovenly works such as that are being published, I feel my chances have increased tremendously. All I need do is refrain from writing 400 pages of driveling rubbish and I should be fine.
Oh, wait! That’s what she did and she got published. I should be able to do the same. I mean, if my draft equaled her finished product, what does that say about the two of us? More importantly, what does that say about my chances for being published?
Let me finish with this, my only lasting impression based on what I read: Ugh. That essentially defines the content, the style, the level of linguistic seriousness, the grammar, the editorial layout, and the vocabulary.
I’ve had yawns written more correctly, I think.
[Update] Was that too catty?