Let’s get the duds out of the way

I think I’m learning how to take bad and mediocre books in stride. That is, I’ve decided that 2012 will be when I don’t take it as a personal offense that the book I just read dared be craptastic or so-so. That sounds wise of me, I know.

So. Five books into the year, and I’ve encountered my first DNF. The dubious distinction belongs to Bridge of Sighs, a short story collection by Paulette Roeske. It was, well, it wasn’t nice. I was intrigued by the first paragraphs of the stories [and one novella!], but, ultimately, there was no rewarding follow-through from the author. Off the top of my head, Roeske seems to settle with bland language. She sets up moments that demands for a reach to the poetic, but the language just lies there like a dead fish, and it won’t even give me the courtesy to flop. Gah. In contrast to the contrived lyric atmosphere, the floo-floo mood of the pieces? More than halfway through, I set the book down. I’d rather read some Alice Munro. She gets shit right.

And then there’s Joan Silber’s contribution to the Art of — Series, with The Art of Time in Fiction: As Long As It Takes. Now. I’m not quite exaggerating when I say that Silber’s short story collection, Ideas of Heaven, changed my life—and helped educate me on expert manipulation of time in fiction. This book, however, was lifeless. Like an elaboration on a little section of Wikipedia entry on time-techniques. It was just so dead. Blech. I’d rather read some Alice Munro—or any of the pieces Silber mentioned to see how those authors accomplished it, and then there’d be goddamned art going on. Sheesh. Happy bleepin’ New Year.

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