Saturday, January 20, 2007

Plot Anxiety

Perhaps I spoke too soon about Against the Day. I seem to be reading at my usual rate, but no nearer the end each time I finish.

I'm somewhere in the 800s. There are so many characters in play that I have to blank out the need to remember who they are when they appear again. Perhaps, I tell myself, they are all variations on the same theme--the women variations on the sexual spy, the men variations on the lone Eastwood cowboy.

I have no background in WWI history. All that machination, the political intrigue, arguments about borders, alliances, allegiances, religious preferences--it goes, fffft, over my head. I'm sure this makes me a shallow person, but when the novel delves into explanation mode I check out. Skim. Eyeballs fluttering to the back of my head.

I just want people to have conversations, for Christ's sake. I want them to get into arguments. I want them to throw things at each other, pull out knives, take a walk, reveal secrets, chase each other down, figure out the goddamn mystery.

Oops. Wandered into a familiar complaint zone.

Two votes for Cormac McCarthy's The Road for my next challenge. Humph. If the novel's going to be deliberately obtuse (as I seem to recall, the author of A Reader's Manifesto raked McCarthy over the coals for being difficult for difficult's sake. He also skewered Annie Proulx, who I happen to like. He had a bug up his ass about their "sentences"--a quality of sentencing that critics fawn all over and that the author claims is just incomprehensibility) I don't want to tackle it right now.

Give me plot or give me TV!


Anonymous said...

How about When Madeline was young by Jane Hamilton? Not much plot, but lots of conversation.

Anonymous said...

Or "The Grace That Keeps This World" by Tom Bailey. Beautiful writing that doesn't get in the way of the story, and vivid, well-drawn characters.