Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Chocolate, Half Price!

When I pick up a book, it's usually after some careful thought and intense browsing. After all, if I'm going to invest that many hours in something, I want it to be worth my while. And if, once I start a book, I'm not enjoying it, I try to give the author at least 10 pages before I abandon the book. It's rare, of course, that I actually abandon a book, but I have done so on rare occasions. And right now I find myself skating very close to the edge of that ice once more.

When I was reading about Ramsey Campbell's latest novel The Overnight, which he wrote after working part-time at a large chain bookstore in Britain, I was intrigued. It's about a bookstore that is some sort of doorway to hell; and is about what happens when the staff lock themselves in for an overnight inventory shift.

Given that I loved horror stories and I love bookstores, I eagerly awaited the publication of this book so I could get it and read it. (After all, I've worked in such large format bookstores myself, have done overnight shifts of receiving, shelving and inventory. Bookstores are, of course, haunted, both with the passionate spirits of the readers that browse throught the aisles during the day and with the spirits of the writers who have left pieces of their souls within the texts on the shelves. If you stand quietly in a bookstore or library after hours when nobody is around - I, of course, have had that pleasure many times - you can hear the faint whispers of these spirits, voices from earlier that same day, but also other ones that echo back through centuries. To me, it's like listening to the wind through the leaves of the trees, or the soft lap of water on a lakeshore.

However, after reading the first 150 or so pages of The Overnight Campbell is still in the process of a round robin of introducing the main characters (each chapter takes on a different character's POV). Sure, the hit and run promised in the blurb has already happened where one of the characters is killed, obviously by one of the little creatures skulking around the shadows of the store and the fog, and a walk-on author character has already hinted at some dark history of the land the store was built on; but I'm still waiting for the story to get rolling along. Campbell is a good writer, but I'm having trouble with the voice with which this particular book is written. I'm also finding myself muttering aloud when reading it as the story plants little goblin-type creatures skittering away just on the edge of everyone's perception.

I don't know what it is with me, but I'm not one for the big long set up any more. I simply don't have the patience any longer. When I pick up a novel I want the author to get to the point, hit me with something right away. The tedious and repeated "hinting" that the place is haunted are wearing on my nerves - yeah, I know the place is haunted, or a doorway to hell, or whatever - stop beating around the bloody bush and get to it already!!!!

Fran reminded me that my time is precious, and if I'm not enjoying the novel, then just abandon the book and read something else. After all, there's no shortage of books piled up on my "to read" list. When I glance over at them, I see them all with little puppy dog eyes looking pleading at me, jumping up and down on cute little feet and waving their precious little arms at me saying "me next, pick me, me next" - it's an affliction - I'm like Homer Simpson in the land of chocolate.

But because I respect Campbell's writing, I've decided I'm only going to temporarily abandon his book. I've put it down, to give it some time, perhaps, like a bottle of red wine that needs to breathe a bit once opened before you enjoy it, and have already plunged into Michael Connelly's latest Harry Bosch mystery: The Closers, which I'm already about 60 pages into and closing on the end fast. (Connelly is another writer that compells me to keep turning those pages until the next thing you know, the book is done) When I finish that, I might give The Overnight another try . . .

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