Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Forked-Tongue Book Review

I've been plodding through John Updike's Gertrude and Claudius for the past two days. The story itself is vaguely interesting (Updike fleshes out the mythos behind the life and times of Hamlet's parents), but between the tone. characterization and tortured prose. I keep having to tamp down my baser instincts toward defenestration. So naturally, I took a break to look up reviews, and just had to add one of my own.

Updike is much lauded for his "repeated themes" (read: writing the same story over and over) on the connection between sex and death. These themes have won him innumerable awards, including two pulitzers. This completely reinforces my belief that, were the majority of bodice-rippers written by men who were willing to pontificate on their "themes," romance novels would be high literature. The large vocabulary is a given, of course. (NB as a precocious reader, I developed a love of romance novels at an early age because I always learned new words from them.) Granted, the tone of the actual sex scenes would undergo some changes; instead of slipping his turgid member between her slick folds, he would be more apt to insert his "rethickened horn" into her "hairy hell-hole." And of course, the word concupiscence would have to emerge on every fifth page, just to make sure that the "theme" remained intact (unlike our heroine, har har).

Naturally, such a feat of Deep and Meaningful Prose demands the requisite Artistic License. Thus, the page-and-a-half long run-on sentence (only the most severe case of comma-abuse, amongst a plethora) is to be read as contributing to the Theme of the Piece. Should the urge to stone the author to death with multiple hardbound copies of The Elements of Style overtake the reader, this is surely a failure on the part of said reader to appreciate the Art of the Piece. Similarly, one should know that an abrupt personality change is expected in characters who have just realized The Connection Between Sex and Death. Any and all readers who percieve this as a gap in characterization certainly suffer the constraints of their own mundanity, and are thus unable to fully understand the author's Theme.

Mistake me not: I like a bit of sex in my fiction. Hell, I like a bit of sex in my non-fiction. But it angers my inner proletarian to see an author lauded for what, if this book is as representative as reviewers claim, ultimately amount to unduly glorified romance novels that are rife with the twin demons of misogyny and bad prose. There's no damn theme, man. It's shitty writing about poorly developed characters who provide the author with an excuse to ruin what could have been a really cool novel with his thinly-veiled hatred for women. Don't pee on my leg and tell me I'm too dumb to see that it's raining.


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