Wow, it has been almost a month since I have uttered a literary word here. And no, in that time I have not touched Pico's Cuba and the Night. Lest you think I have not been reading, I will in fact tell you what I have read. It's not all law school all the time. It is a lot of law school a lot of the time, but not all - all. Just some - some. The other reading has consisted of the following, all of which really ramped up mid-October:
a. The New Yorker subscription found its way to my new residence, so I dove back in to that with the usual glee that accompanies receiving The New Yorker in the mail. Among other fabulous articles in the last few weeks were Adam Gopnik's thoughts on shortening and extending works of art, the former by abridging books and the latter with DVD extras, notably director's cuts, and a piece on The Wire which has officially convinced me that I need to begin watching that show immediately if not sooner. (And catch up on the prior seasons, duh.)
b. The Economist always occupies a good amount of subway reading time, although I think I'm not going to renew this currently-ending subscription. I got it for kind of free last year, with frequent flier miles, but I don't really want to pay for it.
c. Entertainment Weekly has my undivided attention right now, as we are heading into Oscar season soon. They have even offered up a few early predictions. I will offer up a few early predictions/wishes of my own on my main blog tonight, too.
2. The Almost Moon. And I'll tell you what - I have a lovely bone to pick with Ms. Sebold Thang. I can honestly say there is nary another author whose first novel so made me unquestioningly pick up novel number two. There is nothing quite like The Lovely Bones. But here's the thing: after being blown away by the unique, luminous writing of that book I naturally went right out and read her non-fiction book, Lucky, and that was all kinds of disturbing because when you read it you realize that a lot of that detail of the violent rape in The Lovely Bones came from her real-life experience. (Minus the being murdered and narrating the story from heaven, of course.) And even when I heard that five years later she had another novel coming, I harbored the same fear I had when I first read her, that she would just be trying to up the ante now, trying and failing. Because, really, after The Lovely Bones, can you really just go back to writing a "normal" novel?
So I did, I began reading The Almost Moon the day it came out. And guess what? I was right. All she is doing is showing us that she has come up with something even more shocking and disturbing for a premise, but unfortunately the writing is nowhere near the same quality this time around. I won't say she's a one-hit wonder, as that implies some kind of emptiness or frivolity. I don't know if The Lovely Bones could even be considered a hit. It is just darkness, and every time I read another word of hers, it just sheds more darkness on her darkness. I got past 200 pages in The Almost Moon and then didn't care. I'm glad I borrowed it and didn't buy it. It's terrible. Read The Lovely Bones if you haven't, but don't even bother with The Almost Moon.
And you know what? It didn't have to be like this. I worried, as I said, that it WOULD be like this, but it didn't have to be. If she were a better writer, it would not be like this. And you know how I know that? Nabokov. Good ol' Vladimir is one of the best writers ever. Like, he's maybe in the top ten of the world. And I would say that if there's anything to which I can compare The Lovely Bones, that might have to be Lolita. A novel that flings dark and sadistic desire at an adolescent...a plot that shocks...imaginative, beautiful rendering of horrid things...etc. But after Lolita, Nabokov gave us even more brilliance, such as Pale Fire, and what made it so brilliant was utterly different from what came before. He didn't just pull a key change on us. You know, like in a pop song when they get to the third verse or chorus and can't figure out what to do and the energy is fading (because it's maybe just not that good of a song) so they throw in a key change, which is basically like, "I'm going to sing the exact same thing now, but higher! bigger! bolder!" and everyone falls for it.
That's what Alice Sebold did. She kept singing the same song, but just changed keys. No, thank you.