Posts Tagged ‘no emotional connection’

This review was originally posted at West of Mars. It is being posted here, at its new permanent home.

I don’t remember where I first heard of Farai Chideya’s Kiss the Sky. I do know I had really high hopes for this story, of a woman struggling with herself and her music career. Sophie is the sort of character you initially want to root for: she’s divorced from her music partner, but they’ve found a way to co-exist — maybe they are even comfortable with their status. She’s got a cool job, at least when the book opens, and she’s willing to work to regain what she had, musically.

It should have worked. Even the fact that Ms. Chideya is a Harvard grad who has a published a number of non-fiction books should have been enough to save this one.

I was shocked to see how many sentences started with a verb. Went to the club. Stepped outside for a smoke. (Now, I’m making these sentences up, so don’t go looking through the book for them) Yes, okay, maybe some of this is establishing Sophie’s voice, but frankly, it was too much. It became annoyingly repetitive, and it got in the way of the story.

This wasn’t as horrible a thing as I had first feared. Sophie is a mess: she’s bulimic, broke, and bull-headed. She’s so far in denial about her life that I couldn’t spend time with her. I had to put the book down.

It’s one thing to want to read an autobiography about someone who’s a bigger train wreck. We have a reason to want to like them — we have heard the music they make. There’s a connection there.

Thus, in fiction, it’s imperative for the reader to be able to relate to a character who has large amounts of baggage. We need to like them, care about them, root for them. They need to have some sort of drive, some sort of forward motion — either about them or their plot. If it’s going to be a plot-driven book, the character shouldn’t get in the way of that. Sadly, Sophie does.

I needed a reason to like Sophie. But I find myself intolerant of women characters, especially, who are broke but continue to spend money as if it’s no big deal. And then the sex scene with Leon… really, I had to ask if Sophie had any self-respect whatsoever.

If she doesn’t respect herself, why should I?

Kiss the Sky became a Did Not Finish.

Originally posted at West of Mars, this review is being moved to a new home here at The Rock of Pages

It figures that Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad just won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. The judge found it to be emotionally satisfying.

Before the prize was handed out, I sat down with a copy, freshly downloaded from my local library. And… I hated it. I didn’t finish it. I couldn’t make myself do it. (That’s why it figures that it won the Pulitzer! I’ve seen this happen waaaay too many times.)

To be honest, I found the book boring. I found it emotionally flat, the same way I react to way too many short stories I’ve read in my time. The stories may have been about rock and roll — and they were, since they featured an aging record exec and his young employee — but they failed to strike that chord with me. You know the chord I’m talking about: the one that resonates and makes the book breathe. The one that transcends words and makes everything come alive.

Goon Squad felt too much like I was back in graduate school, bored and yearning for something different. (Of course, I feel the need to point out that my fellow students felt similar loathings toward me — only they wished I’d conform and write something they could relate to. Needless to say, workshops could be difficult. You grow a thick skin FAST in those environments.)

I’m not surprised this book won the Pulitzer. The only award-winning books I seem to like are the Printz award winners, and I’ve only read a couple of them. (They’re for Young Adult, in case you aren’t familiar with it, and one of my all-time-favorite books, Fat Kid Rules the World, was the first Printz winner I encountered. Yep, another work of Rock Fiction.)

If you decide to see what you think, go for it. Let me know if I didn’t read far enough into it and if I ought to suck it up, check it out of the library again, and find the spark that wasn’t present in the first three or four stories. Or better yet, if you’ve read and reviewed this, holler. I’ll save myself the return to agony and give you some props.