Saturday, 22 January 2011

An unsatisfying read

Got stuck into a new book yesterday - a day off from everything - after I had a massage. London Tryptich by Jonathan Kemp started off very promising. Entichng pretty pictures on the cover and an intrugues set up - 3 stories told from 1st person pov in three different historical periods 1894, 1954 and 1998. It got into the period feel of 1894 immeadiately and skipped forward reading these episodes in advance of the others - then went back and re read it all chronologically BUT after a good opening the novel falls down on its face in my opinion. It relies almost entirely on exposition - its all told and very little at all is shown and falls into gay cliche and stereotyping. The 1998 section comprises mostly the character from this period recounting in details his arrival and adventures on the London gay scene - very rapidly - in 1986 - which I found confusing. Its down under the device of a letter to lover who the character is "confessing" this past to now - why I am not sure. But I soon lost interest. There is period interest but the actual charcters seem mostly stock and the endless description becomes irritating. I dont know if I can bare to go on reading. And this novel - a first novel - is described by Time Out as "A thoughly absorbing and pacy read...a fresh angle on gay life and the oldest profession"- WELL - I dont see much at all fresh about it. No where up to the literally prowess of Hollinghurst or White (Hotel d' Dream). But I suppose it depends how deep you are aiming- or how surface level. It also got a mention in the Times Literary Supplement.Not that its bad but just a predictable and for me ultimately unsatisfying read. Lesson in that.

It took me two hours to complet the first paragraph(1/2 a page) of a new chapter this morning and 3 hours to reach 500 words and its still no quite right. But I want to complete this new chapter by Tuesday if I can. Out to try practice tango at Nino Bien this afternoon. Dont want to return to the unfriendly class in Abasto. Plan to try a differnt class on monday night instead - alongside the Tuesday class at Salon Canning which I like.
1/2 an hour skype with my sis in Norwich, U.K. this morning after breakfast. Incredible how you can now link up around the world for peanuts. How technology is is moving so fast and becomming so acessible.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting to read your opinions on this book. It seems from what you've said that it's perhaps an innovative idea but less successful in its execution.

    I was reading something on another website or blog about quite severe shortcomings in another book and the very obvious question occurred to me (as a budding writer) as it did when I read the comments above -- how did it get published?(not strictly a rhetorical question)?

    I do wonder, for all the focus that creative writing courses put on the mechanics of writing (nice sentences, imagery, consistent POV and so on) whether what sells a book to an agent or publisher is overwhelmingly the idea -- and generally the more unusual or distinctive the better (depending on genre).

    After all, especially for a new writer, the book has to attract the attention of reviewers, booksellers and so on before they've even opened a page.

    Also, in very stark commercial terms, if a book starts off well and gets worse (even so bad that readers don't finish it) then it's still been sold and made money for the publishers. And, ironically, those sales might swing a second book deal for the author despite the first book not actually being much good.

    (I must add that I've not read the book mentioned above so am talking generally and hypothetically.)