Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Well, That's Done

I finished The Planets, by James Finney Boylan. I really hate to pan something as my first real book-review-type posting, but I really don't think you want to read this book. At first I didn't like it, and then I realized that was because the first character we meet is kind of dumb--it's the character, see? And when I met the next character, I found her quirky and not entirely unpleasing. But no, no--this book is nuts. It's supposed to be funny, I know, in a poignant way. Mostly, though, it's just ridiculous and full of characters with no common sense. Where there is meaning or there are themes, they're thrust at you so aggressively that you want to stagger back from them. Between the time that I started counting and the time that I gave it up (maybe 50 pages?), I tallied about 8 references to the idea of a person feeling divided from him/herself, or feeling like they're two people. That's once every six pages. I get it already.

I don't suppose it helps that I've read this author's most recent book, which is a memoir called She's Not There. I'm very happy to recommend that book highly to anyone--it's very honest and funny and open. The author was born a man; the memoir is about how, in his 30s, he made the final decision to have his sex changed (or rather, his "gender reassigned"). Knowing that he lived his whole life feeling out of place like that, I have to say that the sense of being divided and not really being comfortable with who you are makes sense in his other, much earlier book, but even that understanding made me uncomfortable. I don't want to be psychoanalyzing the author of my book with my B.A. level expertise. I want to be aiming that discernment at the characters.

Anyway, in short, don't read The Planets, by James Finney Boylan but definitely read She's Not There, by Jennifer Finney Boylan.

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