December 17, 2012

Pat, I would like to buy a period please

Sometimesa book will draw you in and you race through it, regardless of sleep, work, or  life. You can't wait to finish and are saddened when the book is done. Sometimes a book is so bad you toss it aside like a used diaper.  Most books fall somewhere in the middle.

I am in the midst of James Jones' acclaimed novel "From Here to Eternity".  It is one of those books with a compelling story. Unfortunately it is easy to put down.  I put it aside at every chance. I am like a kitten when I see a shiny object. Down goes the book. While I am reading I like the story very much. I just find it hard to pick back up.

Jones is amazingly wordy. His prose is more akin to a 19th century novelist than Hemingway. The man never met a period he liked. Yet his descriptions are so good you can only admire his language skills. Here is a paragraph that epitimizes both of these positions -- amazingly wordy and descriptive:

That afternoon that Mazziolli brought the transfer letter over from Regiment, Milt Warden had been sitting at his desk, puzzling over a snapshot Karen Holmes had given him of herself that was before him lying on the papers he had been working on, his cheek sumk on the knuckles of one big fist like a small boy watching a grownup's movie he could not figure out. 
One paragraph. One sentence. I suspect Hemingway blew his brains partly in protest over the overwhelming prose in this novel. I assure you this parpagraph is not unusual. This is the flavor and style of the entire novel so far. I find myself reading each sentence in breathless anticipation of a period. One sentence I just finished was 164 words long!  Often I have to go back and re-read a pssage to get a sense of what the author was trying to impart. Frankly, it is hard work. The story is compelling, but the 12 chapters I have managed so far could have been written in half the words. Would it be the same story? I don't know.  I once read a rule of thumb said good novels make bad movies. The Burt Lancaster film version of the book is first rate.

I have lots of books waiting to be read on my handy-dandy e-reader. I determined some time ago life is too short to spend on lousy books.  Jones' novel is not there yet, but more interesting stories await. I supose if I could make it through War and Peace I can get through anything. Tolstoy took me four months in fits and strts. I have been consuming Jones for less than a week.


Cappy said...

In the middle of that one myself. Just past the part where Warden gets his ashes hauled for the first time.

Anonymous said...

That's too cool we are reading the same book


Jean said...

If I'm gonna be breathless when reading, I want it to be because the story pulls me through the pages. Not because my lungs are empty due to lack of punctuation.
Loved the movie. Pass on the book.

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