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Almost No Memory
Lydia Davis
Selected Poems
Philippe Jaccottet
The Tiger's Wife
Téa Obreht
Charles Dickens (Penguin Lives)
Jane Smiley
The Mansion of Happiness
Robin Ekiss
Erik Satie
The Passage - Justin Cronin It is a commitment to read a horror book that stretches out to nearly 900 pages, and I admit that if the plot didn’t share many similarities to children building a fort, I might have given up. The first time was when I got the inkling that the book was about vampires, or something like vampires, which hadn’t been clear - I thought it was a post-apocalyptic journey story. Still, vampires aren’t all camp all the time, and the set-up to the story in the first couple hundred pages was very strong, so I continued.

Bit a serious wavering point came with this sentence: "The grenade went off, taking out the front of the Chalet, but Richards heard this only vaguely - the noise receding, fading to some impossible distance - as he experienced the sensation, utterly new to him, of being torn in half." (p. 241)

I had a "vague" problem with that sentence. Wouldn’t the feeling of being torn in half be "new" to most people, not just to Richards? And not just new but "utterly new," as in, gee, I've never even come close to being torn into two pieces before. For it not to be new, you'd have to have survived being ripped in half once before. Show me such a person, and I will give this sentence my blessing.

Though death is everywhere, its novelty remains an irresistible subject. After a bad guy dies in the last third of the book, there’s this: “... he dropped to his knees, flopping forward, his face frozen in an expression of eternal wonderment, as if to say: I can’t believe I’m dead.” (p. 681)

Besides the ridiculous reading of the expression, I’d be a little more careful with the “eternal wonderment” myself. It won’t last forever.

Elsewhere, there should be a limit to how many close calls any one scene should have. It dilutes the excitement if you’ve got major characters almost dying repeatedly in one scene. I guess it has something to do with climax? Like having three climaxes to one scene makes you wonder if the author doubts the effectiveness of his writing? Not to mention then bringing some back to life. Oh, and on the flip side, you shouldn’t leave a major character for dead more than once, only to resurrect him, as in “look, this guy is toast, oh but wait, he’s not.” Wait 200 pages. Then “look, this same guy is toast, oh but wait, no he’s not.” Wait 200 pages. Then “look, this same poor guy...” etc.

Anyway, I won’t disparage the book too much. It was very entertaining, involving, and it even had some poignant moments. Thanks to this book there were a couple nights when I woke up and thought I’d go to the bathroom but decided I didn’t need to feel my way down the dark hallway without military chaperone. But if I had known that the author would end in a way that makes it necessary to read the sequel (it’s a trilogy) to know what’s happening, I never would have ventured in. This is a purely commercial trick, showing a shocking lack of integrity. I won’t be reading the sequel.