Sunday, November 04, 2007

What a Differenece a Day Makes

So last night, I was debating about whether to write up my list of books, or to write about the book that I spent most of yesterday reading, The Game, by Laurie King. I went with the list, because I really wanted to get it in near the beginning of the month, to compare my goals to my accomplishments later one. So I put off writing about The Game and how godawful boring it was until today.

And then, late last night, just before bed, it got interesting. So my plan to ramble on and on about how nothing was happening, and why on earth would you write a spy novel with so many digressions, and not just digressions, but boring digressions, was all shot to hell. I still can't recommend the book--I mean, I was pretty miserable up until page 250 or so--but I can't whine too much about it, either. The last 100 pages were just what they needed to be for the novel I had wanted to read. I don't know quite why the first 250 pages were 100 pages too long, and all of that filled with laborious detail about the paintings in every room she entered, and the countryside of every single town the damned train passed through. I do understand that India in 1923 is lovely and exotic and deserves lavish description. But once, maybe five times. Not every single page.

It's funny, the character, Mary Russell (the young, clever wife taken late in life my Mr. Sherlock Holmes), is British, but the author is American. The pacing of the book, though, has a flavo(u)r that reminds me of England, in its long descriptions of travel and the minutiae of getting from one place to another, whether or not those details are interesting in and of themselves or relevant to anything that happens later. In this book, for example, which is supposed to be something between a mystery and a spy novel, the couple disguise themselves as itinerant Indian magicians and travel around India to pick up gossip about the location of a missing spy. They spend nearly 100 pages doing this. They ask a lot of questions, see a lot of scenery, give a lot of magic shows. They don't find out anything. There are no details that I can call to mind from that stretch that become relevant later in the book. It's just there for its own purposes--because traveling around India disguised as an itinerant magician is interesting. Well, maybe, but not in a spy novel. Which this had already been set up to be. If you see my point.

So it's done, anyway. Why did I keep reading it yesterday, if I wasn't enjoying it, you ask? Well, first of all, once I've invested myself in half a book, it seems a waste not to make it to the end--I have to really hate it for that. But also, I have to admit, the other book I kept trying to pick up was Angels and Demons, and that book was just so awful that I kept having to put it down again.

And why will I keep reading that, if it's so awful? Well, that's easy. At least in that book, I can say quite clearly that I want to find out what happens next. Because say what you will about Dan Brown, something is always happening next.

1 comment:

Michael said...

Do you think that the author was dying to do a "Sherlock Holmes as an aging itinerant magician" story?

When I first saw this book a imagined what must be a much older Holmes, more like the frail, failing version from the Michael Chabon book.

Did you ever end up reading that? I might have to read it again. I didn't care the ending that much the first time, but I think it might improve with a second reading.