Not much accomplished over the weekend. I did begin to read the manuscript of Strong Currents 2, the Aloha Chapter’s anthology that’s been on the backburner for the past two years or so. I am not an official editor of the book, so probably won’t appear as such in the credits, but I volunteered to help the current harried editor. Someone else started out as editor a very long time ago, but I’m not sure what happened there. I think she was an extremely busy person with kids and a job and school, etc, and her time to edit wasn’t too much, especially when she also needed to write her own work. Me, I’m just a lazy stay-at-home-with-no-income writer who still has very little time to do these things. But, I love my chapter and want to help!
As if I don’t have enough to read, I couldn’t resist starting The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason last night. If you remember anything about last year, you probably remember the hype on this book written by two Princeton graduates and lifelong pals. Someone, maybe both of them, is an excellent writer. A sentence in particular that I love: “[…] literature is just an educated man’s shell game, three card monte for the college crowd: what you see is never what you get.” LOL, so true! And this sentence on the first page is a beauty: “A son is the promise that time makes to a man, the guarantee every father receives that whatever he holds dear will someday be considered foolish, and that the person he loves best in the world will misunderstand him.” That is poetry, sheer gorgeous writing that is timeless and will probably find its way into the three card monte game at some point in the future.
BUT. (You knew there was a but, right?) I began this book right before bed, lying propped up on my pillows and reading just for a little light entertainment before turning off the light. And you know what? It was easy to put the book down and turn off the light. In spite of gorgeous sentences sprinkled throughout the first 20 pages (I underlined 3, which is not quite usual, especially with pop fiction. It took me 3/4’s of the book to underline anything in Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop, for instance), there was no pressing reason to keep reading. The hooks weren’t there. The ending chapter hook for chapter one is that these 4 young men are going into the tunnels to play laser tag. So freakin’ what. Ho hum.
I will keep reading, because I am naturally curious about the hype and because someone is, as I said, a good writer. But where’s the drama? Shouldn’t it appear immediately? Why am I getting backstory (a beginner’s mistake for sure) in the first chapter? The prologue is necessary and a teaser, probably, to keep the reader engaged. But chapter one is nothing but setup. Laser tag? I don’t care how they got into those tunnels. Get them down there and then tell me about it (assuming the tunnels and this game are important to the book; this I don’t yet know). Engage me as a reader first, toss me into stormy waters, yank the liferaft out from under me, and tell me to swim. This is a suspense novel. Where is the sense of urgency?
Okay, I’m bitching because I can, and I do think these guys are talented and will deliver (at least I hope so), but I hope they will in the future cut to the chase a bit sooner. I haven’t read that uber-famous novel about a code named after a certain Italian master, but I did once peruse the prologue while standing in the bookstore (I want to read it, but refuse to buy it on principle–how long must you force the masses to pay for hardcover novels when the standard is to move into paperback in a year or so? Do these people not have enough money yet?). Something dramatic happens in the prologue. It ends with a hook. You want to turn the page. I did not want to turn the page after I finished chapter one in this book. I wanted to go to sleep.
I should say, too, that I am a somewhat patient reader (doesn’t sound like it, I know). I am willing to give the writer the benefit of the doubt and to believe he or she intends to give me a good story. I will go through pages of set-up with that belief. I get cranky when the set-up drags on though.
Looks like I am running out of time. My kitchen timer has 6 minutes left. Can’t believe I’ve managed to read three NYT articles, read email, read a couple of blogs, and write in my own in an hour. Time flies when you’re having fun. 🙂 Aloha.