Sunday, October 29, 2006
Chitchatting about cadmium and puce.
From Adam Goodheart's review of Charles Frazier's new novel, Thirteen Moons, in today's New York Times Book Review:
How, then, to explain the much more frequent patches of bad -- really bad -- writing in "Thirteen Moons"? This starts with the book's very first sentences, which are so awful that they beg to be read aloud: "There is no scatheless rapture. Love and time put me in this condition. I am leaving soon for the Nightland, where all the ghosts of men and animals yearn to travel." To be sure, there were plenty of passages like this in "Cold Mountain" -- of prose that somehow managed to be simultaneously potentous, folksy and cloying, like banjo music on the soundtrack of a Ken Burns documentary. But the volume in "Thirteen Moons" has been cranked up considerably.Stephen Metcalf didn't like the way Frazier writes either.
The problem, I think, is that Frazier writes almost exclusively to create effects. He seems to be in love with the supposed gorgeousness of his own prose, a backdrop against which his characters emerge merely as dim figures, without consistent motivations or even personalities. Tolstoy and Virgil -- and, come to think of it, Margaret Mitchell -- credibly describe human beings driven by ambition, greed, drunkenness, and fickle lust. Frazier can't even get the drunkenness right. When Will is reunited with an old Cherokee buddy, "at a certain point of whiskey camaraderie, we contested to name all the colors the mountains and their foliage are able to take on. . . . We went on down the colors, even all the purples, including puce. And the yellows including cadmium." Now that's what I'd call a couple of tough old-timers, getting plastered and chitchatting about cadmium and puce! (Unfortunately, they run through the rest of the color spectrum, as well.)
Subscribe to Posts [Atom]