Monday, April 4, 2011

Three DNFs and Some Notes

The Help by Katheryn Stockett - Dialect is something you hear, not see written. This may be a good story and all, but seeing page after page of the phonetic rendition of a Southern accent is hard on my eyes. The movie, I'm sure, will be a much better.

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving - Oh golly. I keep trying to like John Irving but it's just not working. His characters and stories are so unbelievably weird - what was with Owen SPEAKING IN ALL CAPS anyway? It was silly and, just like written-out dialect, hard on my eyes. The only book of Irving's I've ever finished was Cider House Rules, and even that was meh. Anywhoo, I think at this point, after sampling Owen and Garp, I will retire him from my TBR shelf for good.

Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier - I love the blurb on the back cover! 19th Century orphan boy sent out into the wilderness to work at a trading post . . . Adopted by the chief of the Cherokee Nation. . .  Humor. . . yearning . . . fortune . . . passion . . . adventure. Why, it's a book practically written for me. so why can't I get passed the first ten pages? I've been coming back to it again and again for over a year, but the author's writing is a monotonous bore. Please say this isn't so for the whole book. Perhaps I should just skip the first 25 pages, find the beginning of some random paragraph, and start from there. It's got to get better further on. It just has to.

A large part of my enjoyment of reading is the visual aspect of a well written sentence, which is probably why I am not fond of audiobooks. The word choice, grammar and structure don't just have to sound good, they have to look good too.

For example . . .

"It had been months since I laid eyes on Mom, and when she looked up, I was overcome with panic that she'd see me and call out my name, and that someone on the way to the same party would spot us together and Mom would introduce herself and my secret would be out."

. . . is on the first page of Jeanette Walls' The Glass Castle. The length of this sentence and her use of words like 'looked up,' 'overcome,' 'panic,' 'call out,' and 'secret' immediately impart the breathless emotional story to follow. Brilliant. It makes me want to keep reading.

And then, from Frazier's Thirteen Moons, we have . . . 

"The belief I've acquired over a generous and nevertheless inadequate time on earth is that we arrive in the afterlife as broken as when we departed from the world." 

Excuse me. What? This sentence is a clumsy mouthful of words that doesn't really inspire me to read on. It puts me in mind of Janet Fitch's White Oleander which has the most extensive collection of redundant and/or incongruous descriptors I've ever seen. 

Writing for the reader's sake should take the whole sight and sound package into consideration. I want to be enthralled, not annoyed.


(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Oh missed a good one passing on The Help....maybe the audio version?

Trish said...

Yes, audio might be my next best bet. And if not that then the movie for sure.

Kerry said...

I listened to The Help (didn't read a page!) and really enjoyed it. But I agree that dialect is meant to be heard, not read.

I'm surprised about Irving! I just finished Garp and while you're right that it is indeed strange at times, I actually really enjoyed it.

And lastly, just reading that Frazier sentence confused me.

But all in all, I think DNFs are a good thing, as it's not worth finishing a book you aren't loving when there are oh so many books waiting to be read out there.