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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

On Glass Books Of The Widely-Shut Eyes, or FORCING IT THROUGH

I’ll admit: I’m a glutton for literary punishment. My favorite books are usually the ones that require three Berlitz language tapes and a serious sense of self-hatred. After all, if the author writes as though the reader’s a wetnap primed for abuse, then I guess, as the reader of said authors, I’m guilty as charged.

As such, when a copy of Gordon Dahlquist’s The Glass Books Of The Dream Eaters arrived on my desk, I was hyperactive (even more so than usual). A monstrosity of a book in size and apparently in scope; I don’t know that for fact, though. I plowed my way through several books over the weekend, including Bookslut favorite Small Acts of Sex and Electricity, and shelved (har har a little book seller humor there) reading a few others, including the worship-worthy Kate Bornstein’s newest book (which has me so excited I feel as though I’ve overdosed on Jolly Ranchers and Pepsi Jazz), to begin trudging through the tome. The back cover (at least, the back cover of the Advance Reader’s Copy) quotes author Diana Gabaldon as saying the novel is “deftly executed” and “relentlessly inventive”.

In the course of my weekend, I managed to make it about 200 pages into Glass Books. Thus far, I’ve found a first novel that’s begging to be Proustian in its flowery (ANOTHER literary joke! I kill me!), hallucinogenic prose style, but that, when distanced from the page-to-page minutiae, lacks any real sense of character.

For those unfamiliar, the publisher's summary of Glass Books reads as such:

"Determined to find out why her engagement to Roger Bascombe was abruptly terminated, Celeste Temple disguises herself to follow her erstwhile fianc‚ to forbidding Harschmont Manor, which becomes a terrifying gate into a seductive and shocking world linked to a terrifying conspiracy.

Basically the plot breaks down like this:

Man leaves woman. Woman says “nope not gonna happen” and stalks man. Woman ends up on train with masked people who are, of course, sexual deviants in some form or fashion and who act like she’s been there all along. Someone named Prince is important, and then sings “When Doves Cry”.

All right, the last bit about the song hasn’t actually happened, but I have about 700 pages left to go, so it very well could. All this while, I can’t help but feel that it seems apparent Glass Books is nothing more than an overhyped expenditure of paper-and-ink that just reheats Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut” like so much Tuesday night T.V. dinner, and then I remind myself: if a film’s released and no one sees it, copping the plot for a novel isn’t plagiarism.

The problem with being a literary masochist is that, in the end, I have to have payoff. There has to be something that makes coming back for the abuse worth it, and thus far I just feel stupid for sitting in front of my overflowing-with-new-stuff bookshelf, waiting for Colonel Doctor Zelig the Fourth to wear his party mask, or some other such going on in Glass Books.

So then, why can’t I just put it down? I could stop this whole thing in its tracks, move forward and onward and upward to other words. Instead, no, I keep plugging onward, forcing it through page after page of literary marshmallow fluff-topped Diet cola.

What is this need that we, as readers, have to finish a book, even when we KNOW better? What’s the last book you MADE yourself finish, and was it worth it? Leave a comment and let us know, and you'll automatically be entered to win...well, to win a GOOD book. The definition of "good" to be determined.

I’ll tell you when I finish Glass Books. And I’ll be submitting receipts for the days of my life I won’t get back.

--Russ Marshalek


Anonymous suzan said...

the last book i forced myself to read was the great mortality. it was about the plague. and god, it was BORING. massive, pestilential death may be gross, depressing, or even morbidly intriguing, but it sure as hell shouldn't be BORING.

8:15 PM  
Blogger Honey said...

I don't force myself to read anything anymore, there's too much good stuff out there I might be missing.

9:01 AM  

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