From Bad to Worse to Poetry

So this hasn’t been the greatest of days. No, no. Nothing happened. It was just one of those wake up on the wrong side of the bed kind of days. It only got worse. However, unlike the title may seem to infer, it was not an entire downward slope. I went to a poetry reading this evening by Alan Michael Parker. He read from his latest book, Elephants and Butterflies. Yes, that’s him below. Yep, right there. It’s a portrait his wife painted. I like it.

Now, I have to admit that I am extremely picky when it comes to poetry. As a teacher of literature, it is by far my most difficult subject because I lack enthusiasm. There’s just not a whole lot I like. I do like Billy Collins. And this guy, AMP, was just the right amount of clever, witty, and achingly sad to make me sit up and pay attention. I went because I lecture my students about not partaking in university events that are FOR THEM.  I came out thinking maybe I should take a look at his book when I’ve got some money lying around this old house. He also read from his novel in progress, and it was a mix between Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” and another story I couldn’t quite place. Suffice it to say, it was a nice evening. Not enough to suddenly lift me to soaring heights, but enough to allow me to come home and write a little something.

So here I sit at the computer. I’ve got a stack of three mysteries:

I began The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs by Charlie Huston today. There is only one other book, The New York Trilogy, to which I have taken such an immediate dislike. Ugh. I don’t like it. I am not one to not finish books. I always finish books (ok, I didn’t finish that other book either). First, the language is awful. I’m not a prude in any sense of the word, and I can normally handle language. Hell, I read hardboiled detective novels. This, though, just doesn’t quite seem to fit.

I haven’t related to the characters at all, and the dialogue – oh, the dialogue! Huston apparently thinks he is Evelyn Waugh or Dashiell Hammett and so there is no need for him to identify his speakers. Not so. Huston, you just ain’t there. I need to know who’s talking. Plus, the way it is punctuated is really irritating. Here’s a sample:

–Ouch. That looks painful.

–And if that’s what it felt like to look at it, imagine how it feels to actually have it happen to you.

–Yeah, I’d imagine that sucks.



–Someone called for maid service?

See? It’s very disconcerting. I’m not a punctuation Nazi or queen of dialogue, but STOP. IT. NOW. It’s not cute. It’s not funny. It’s not artistic. It’s just plain annoying. I like my dialogue to look like dialogue. When you haven’t developed the characters well, I want you to tell me who is speaking. It’s that simple. I will give it another try when I am not in an insanely bad mood, but I am not hopeful about this book. We shall see. I may have to delve back into the pile. For now, bed. Good night, and happy reading!


One response to “From Bad to Worse to Poetry

  • Leslie

    Hey Jenn,
    I have not been on facebook in a while but was so excited to see you have a new blog. I will check often for your reviews. I finished not long ago “The History Of Love” It was wonderful. I appreciate your suggestions. Always looking for a good read!
    Also loved the pictures of your house. You have done so much and it looks great!!!
    Better get to work now. -aunt les

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