Thursday, November 15, 2007

Last Seen Leaving my bookshelf....Owls for autumn

I tried to give Last Seen Leaving by Kelly Braffet the old college try as Houghton Mifflin very kindly sent it to me, but it was not my cup of tea. It had a tantalizing prologue but as the body of the novel started, the characters failed to grip me. Part of that was the mileu - a new age bookstore - despite what seemed like a comic take, I checked out. Also, aside from the central character, everyone else seemed a cliche - much like the casting of those big romance blockbuster movies like Sleepless in You've Got Mail. You know, there's Tom Hanks or Meg Ryan or whomever valiantly doing their decent thing... and then there's everybody else - the spinstery store keeper-type, the gay friend-type. I hate second-rate on purpose. But back to the book, there was a present-tense narrator delivering exposition in a voice I found so self-conscious, I kept wondering if I would find out this part of the book was actually a police report or a lawyer's brief. A scene in a central character's kitchen in the early part of the book is interrupted by this reportorial voice with the name of the town in which she was born , her parents' names, and their causes of death. It felt so clinical and out-of-place and if that had a point, I couldn't tell what it was. Finally, the whole connection with the "other worldly" element of this book - the central character's trying to connect with her supposedly dead husband or out-of-touch daughter, her sandalwood oil, her meditation - the rendering of it was hackneyed. Sounding more like yoga journal than a novel "trying to empty her mind of all thought...She almost never go it right." I'm being kind of hard on this book, but after 50 pages I knew it wasn't my thing. Chalk it up to my taste, the story might have been great if I had stuck with it a while longer but there are too many books to read between papers on neurotransmitters so it has been preempted by The Owl Service, which I noticed Slaves of Golconda is reading this month. I'm not a member but I'll be reading it in admirable company and it's just the thing for the swirling leaves, cold melancholy days, and ginger tea.

6 comments:

SarahJane said...

hi -
some of the books/authors under your favorites list are also favorites of mine, so I'm going to read some of the authors there that I've not tried before. thanks.

Ted said...

SJ - I'll be curious to hear your thoughts as some of our favorites overlap and you also love some stuff I just don't respond to. Nice blog, by the way.

sheila said...

//I hate second-rate on purpose.//

God, that comment really rings home. I notice it when my writing goes that route. It means I'm being safe, or that I'm insecure. It's a horrible feeling. I know just what you mean.

Ted said...

Hey friend - Yes, I'm there at least three times a day myself. Verbally and in print.
I've just designed this very cool (I hope) study, I'm going to post a link on my blog. It's all about reading behavior. I've been working on it for weeks so I'm pretty excited about collecting some data!

danielle said...

I need to start Owl Service this week, too. You are most welcome to join the discussion over at the Metaxu Cafe--they'll have a forum set up for it. The more the merrier. I always like getting everyone else's take on a book.

Ted said...

Danielle - Thanks! Actually, I went over to Metaxu and signed up, just to make it official.