Monday, 16 April 2012

Breaking up with Earthquake Weather: a reader's Dear John letter

Dear Earthquake Weather,

I wanted to love you; I really did. Instead I just about like you, and not a lot.

It's not you; it's me. Really.

I loved Last Call, and that's where your whole ethos of transplanting grail myth and ancient gods to modern-day America began. I didn't read Expiration Date, which directly precedes you, and maybe that's why things didn't go well between us. It's my fault for not taking the time to get to know where you're coming from.

I've known and loved books of all sizes - but I found your 600 pages hard to deal with. I just didn't seem to have the time for your 400 pages of build-up or for the over-crowded rush of the last 50 pages; I wasn't willing to make the effort to care about your characters: the alcoholic widower, the split-personality girl, every personality unpleasant and some downright frightening, the self-righteous shrink-turned-bruja and her non-character husband, the adolescent Fisher King in waiting with, again, no character, and the unpleasant, gun-toting martinet - and these were the good guys.

And yet there was so much I wanted to like - I loved the way you wove Greek myth, speculative Shakespeare interpretations, the Mexican loteria cards and more into a frothy, bubbling whole. You're really good with free association and wordplay. There's a lot of eating and drinking and twists in well-known tales, from The Maltese Falcon to The Tale Of Two Cities. Three Latin palindromes at no extra cost! A really creepy villainous shrink with some truly bizarre methods.

Then why didn't it work out between us? Maybe it was just that you took too much for granted, let your bulk turn into flab rather than real heft. Maybe you were so caught up in weaving your strange magical-mythical stew that you lost track of character and plot structure.

Wow, your plot was all over the place; three different sets of people slowly converging, and I mean slowly, to actually reveal the main aim of the damned story - to resurrect the dead King - and then bungling around, making a botch of things just because they randomly won't listen to each other or the ghost guide they've summoned out of no apparent reason other than utter cussedness and wanting the novel to go on and on and on.  I know life is messy; what's fiction's excuse? And it isn't like this some Beckettian novel of the absurdity of literature and language and possibly life; it's an exercise in a deeply plot-driven genre. And you just spent way too much time showing people eating, drinking and bickering. I know Robert Jordan was doing pretty well with novels like that at the time; were you just trying to be like the cool kids? Was that it?

Or no, really, it was me. I know you tried hard; I know I could have tried harder. I shouldn't have expected you to be another Last Call; that was unfair. Every novel can't be Last Call, and why should you? Please don't take this badly. I'm sure you'll find someone else.

This is goodbye,

JP

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