Saturday, 30 July 2011

I tried my best...

Yes. As hard as I have tried, I just cannot finish reading James Herbert's Once. I guess there is a first for everything. I hope this doesn't mean I am becoming a crodgety old fogey so set in her ways that she won't welcome something a little different from her strict, unchangeable expectations narrowminded.

But really. I made a cardinal mistake, and that was to judge a book by its cover. I was impressed with the big white tome (and really, I can call this a tome), with its silver embossing and its fairy tale design. I was taken aback by the magic of the cover and eagerly opened it, keen to step into the magic inside. The statements covering the book about how James Herbert is one of the UK's leading horror authors also promised something good. Or at least substantial.

Now, don't stop this from reading it yourself, if you want to. I don't want my review of this - and you can hardly call it a review, considering I only got to almost halfway through - to impact your decision on whether to read it. I am just saying that, from my point of view, I could write better than this, this tome before me, spread open on my lap on my way home on the train from work earlier this week, at a moment in my day when I need a book, or I might as well not breathe. One should always read on trains. It helps distract from the boringness of it all.

So there I am, with Once, and finally, at page 188, I have to slap it closed. I lost patience with it. This is the first time in my entire life I actually lost patience with a book. If I could have thrown it out of the train's window, I would have, but it was a book loaned to me by a family member, who wants to read it on his upcoming September holiday, and I think he wouldn't have been happy with me chucking his as-yet-unread book out into the trees and brush next to train tracks somewhere between Sheffield and Rotherham.

And so.

I think this is an important post topic because it taught me that I can recognize my ideal writing style, and that, yes, poor writing (in my opinion), no matter how sexy a story is, does not work. At all. The fact that it got published just astounds me.

To give credit to James Herbert, I'm sure he is a fantastic writer. He certainly can't be one of the UK's leading authors if he wasn't. Perhaps Once was an experiment. I think he tried on a different writing voice for this novel. I think he wanted it to sound like a fairy tale (for adults: the porn element was there) but I think in this instance he tried too hard. I have read adult fairy tales that got their point across just fine. (One of which was a different take on the Cinderella story but unfortunately at the moment the title and the author's name escape me. I'll post it as soon as I remember!) But Herbert chose such a frilly, over-the-top style that kept me at such a distance from the actual story that it was as if I were balancing on tip-toe on one side of a high fence, uncomfortably, to see anything that was going on. Tried hard, but I just lost interest. It was too much work to read. And believe me, I have read some very trying books. Moll Flanders, Robinson Crusoe, Gabriel Garcia Marquez's News of a Kidnapping.

On the other hand, I have replaced it with John Hart's Down River. Which is a refreshingly good read.

Happy Saturday, all!

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