Friday, March 6, 2009

Rant...Rant Cancelled...Rant Reinstated!


If you are in my book group, DO Not read this!

I warned you that a rant was coming about this book, and I am glad that I didn't act upon that too quickly. To me, this is still a rant worthy book, and after finishing, I wanted to call the author and holler "Give me my Sunday afternoon back." But then, I got to thinking about all the millions of readers who have made Jodi Picoult one of the top-selling authors of all times, and I thought it best not to insult any of them with my inane opinions. After all, some of you reading this might be fans. After reading two Picoult books in their entirety, and parts of several others, I have concluded that I am not a fan, and that's OK.

Eliminating the great Picoult trashing which was planned for this post, left me pondering on to write. I had nothing for you. The past week was a no-lifer. I vacuumed and washed the floors in the store. That's about all I have to say. See ya next week!

Just kidding. Generally, I am on the lookout for odds and ends to share, but I just had a nice, lazy week of work, and lots of reality TV. My perceived waste of a Sunday made me think about what I enjoy in a novel. Some people like plot driven novels; I prefer those that are character driven. Take the Joads in The Grapes of Wrath, for example. Are those not rich characters? Steinbeck reveals them to us through their interactions with others, through their internal conflicts, and through their voices. Nothing annoys me more than a novel where all the characters sound alike. The dialogue tags could be "said Mary," or "said Jim...or Penelope...or King Tut." doesn't matter. They all speak with the same cadence, make the same vocabulary choices, and discuss issues with identical depth of thought (if any).

For me, a novel must have skillful, dynamic rhythm in its sentence structure, like a fine piece of music. My piano playing days tell me that is called rubato, a sort of push and pull that causes tension, strain, then some relief from the tension, often followed by a rushing build to the next scene. I sure don't want to read a novel with multiple sub-plots, many of which are red-herrings, and find they are all given equal importance, and written in the same, predictable, gentle, rolling, boring tempo. I want the words to pull me along, not rock me into the oblivion of simply turning pages to get to the next tangent wandering off of sub-plot 14. Playwrights excel at this. Poe and Hawthorne knew a thing or two about word musicality, as did Jane Austen. But the writer whose language I can get lost in time and time again is Milne. For me, Winnie-the-Pooh never gets old. Noel Coward does a great job in this area, as you would expect, as do many of our contemporary British authors.

There is much more I appreciate in fine writing, but you don't want to hear any more on that, do you? As far as plot is concerned, I enjoy it when there is one. If my character and language needs are met, I can handle just about any plot, with one exception...a plot with too many coincidences. Those bad soap opera stories wind up as Lifetime Channel TV movies. This is where I will do a mini-rant on Change of Heart. The main character's husband and daughter are murdered. Tragic, to be sure, but does she also have to be pregnant? Wasn't the double murder enough? Then, the priest who counsels the convicted murderer just happened to be on the jury that sentenced him to death eleven years ago. Oh, and I can't forget that the murderer once robbed the priest of a precious photo of his grandfather. Apparently, the murderer lacked a grandpa to fish with, and his life went down the tubes because of it.

There's more - not in the coincidence category, just "Boy-this-book-sure-is-overwritten" sort of stuff. Some believe that the murderer is the Messiah -don't want to get into details here,- just trust me. His team of supporters includes a Catholic, a Jewish lawyer with a rabbi father, an atheist, and a gnostic. While I would have appreciated the author allowing me to make up my own mind on whether or not the killer was or wasn't a miracle worker, she just couldn't let me do it. Right up until the end, I thought I was going to get away with forming my own opinion, but then she had to hit me on the head with a last sentence that told me exactly what she wanted me to think. Thank you, Jodi.

OK. I have to stop. I am nearing the full out rant line, and I don't want to do that. I will save that for my book discussion group later in the month. Even though this book and I did not get along, the author has given us plenty to discuss: the death penalty, organ transplants, cell memory, and the role of belief in a higher power in shaping our dreams, our fears, our tolerance levels, and our ideas on forgiveness and redemption.

In the meantime, I continue to plug away at Cesar Milan's dog training book. I think my dog, GB, should learn some manners. She does not. I think I get to be the boss, She disagrees. We are at an impasse. Hence...her return to doggie boot camp. Off the furniture. No treats. No free scratches.

I'm done with The Hunger Games. Young adult novels are the best. (Tom M. if you're reading this and want my ARC of this book, let me know.) Because I am a "Survivor" fan, I enjoyed the strategizing used by the twenty-four young adults fighting to the death in a state sponsored TV show. But the concept of kids killing kids....beyond troubling.

Here is a book I can't wait to dig into. Don't you love the retro, pulp fiction cover?
You know Jane Hamilton, right? The Book of Ruth was one of Oprah's first picks for her TV book club that got the whole world reading again. You know that Jane lives in Wisconsin, right? Yup, as a matter of fact, she lives near an apple orchard next to my friend Cary's parents. Cary frequently spends some holiday time at the Hamilton house. Laura Rider's Masterpiece appears to be a departure from the heavy duty, issue oriented studies Ms. Hamilton is known for. I'll let you know.

*****We had our Heart-A-Rama tech meeting on Sunday which means the show is coming up fast now. The directors met with the scene behinders to talk about our individual needs for the show. So many components have to come together to make this show happen. For example, our costume chair, Jill, told us that we have requested a total of seventy-two different costumes this year...including several wolves, a frog, an egg, and I think I heard her mention a foaming bring suit!

This is fun! I was sitting next to someone who, in an attempt to not embarass me, whispered, "Bev, you're wearing two different socks." And I was! One black with blue dots, the other black with blue stripes. Sometime you gotta live on the wild side, and besides, I was among theatre folk! I replied, "I have another pair at home just like these." I am 100% serious when I tell you that he then informed me that if I "switched them around" I would have two matching pairs! Aren't friends grand!