Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Ripped off, metaphorically speaking

After its failure to provide me with the anticipated twenty-nine dollars and ninety-five cents worth of enjoyment, it was with a faint sense of disappointment that I returned a book, the latest to fulfil its raison d’ĂȘtre, to the shelf.

The prose was tritely formulaic and the protagonist another eye-rollingly boring woman of great beauty and greater character flaws, who ultimately finds redemption and a happy ending in the arms of the man she loves. Yawn. The characters were as endearing as my baby’s last vomit, and the enticing premise was nothing but a fraudulent ruse, an invitation to undertake a free personality test before an assault by pests worse than scientologists – and the natural enemy of high-school essayists everywhere – metaphors.

Alright, so maybe I should have expected as much, given my selection of a book from the magical realism genre. And I know that must seem like an odd complaint, given that many of the books I enjoy are intentionally rich in metaphors, allegory and social commentary, but the beauty of those stories is that they can, if like me you are lazy-minded and still rebelling against minute analysis of dull school curriculum books, be read as simple tales of good versus evil, or triumph over adversity, or coming of age, or sentient meat products.

What I object to is the laboured metaphor, the diversion from the narrative to irrelevant details designed to sledgehammer the author’s ‘real’ message into our heads, and repeated every couple of pages just in case us thickies didn’t get it the first dozen times. I’m talking about such twaddle as a character inexplicably stopping to pull at a loose thread, and find it unravelling just like her predictable life is unravelling! Or interspersing scenes from The Wizard of Oz with the heroine’s own adventures, because she too is both literally and figuratively lost, and realises there’s no place like home!

Do I lack an appreciation for creative works with non-literal meanings? Probably. I dislike modern dance. Stanley Kubrick films have stolen hours of my life that I want back. I look at most modern art and see bogus tailors making clothes for the emperor. Does this mean I’m contemptibly low-brow? Perhaps. Sometimes my brows are so low I could pass for the amazing moustachioed woman. So to appease my ruffled sensibilities, the next book I read is going to be a familiar favourite, one I know I can enjoy just for the story, without exhausting my brain with ponderings on deeper significance. I was thinking of Animal Farm.


Diesel said...

I'm with you here. I don't like a lot of poetic nonsense in my books. Have you seen The Thin Red Line? Holy crap, I wanted to poke my eyes out.

Read The Gun Seller, by Hugh Laurie. Yes, that Hugh Laurie. I have a review of it on my Central Booking blog. It's hysterical, and you can gloss over the parts where he tries to make a point.

Anonymous said...

Well said and written Ms P. Try looking at the short stories linked under post a story site on my blog. I make no comment - just say what you read.

redcap said...

Oh dear. Was it the Life of Pi? I avoided that on the grounds that it looked like utter bollocks.

Mr Kubrick has stolen hours of my life, too, most notably with 2001 A Space Oddyssey. It was like being licked to death by a very lazy sloth. (I have to admit that I liked Full Metal Jacket, though.) Totally with you on modern dance, but I think some modern art has nice swirly patterns and pretty colours. Just like peanut butter and jam on toast.

I just threw aside all midly serious books and read a thumping good thriller. And enjoyed it. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Michael Cunningham.

Graffiti said...

Good blog!

I saw the name of your blog on someone's blog roll.
I had to visit.
As a youngster I was called Tony Polony


Lonie Polony said...

Diesel - OMG! I'm still annoyed I sat through the whole of The Thin Red Line (and The English Patient. What a gyp!). To me, Hugh Laurie will always be George, but thanks for the recommendation, I'll give it a go one day. Thanks for stopping by!

Thanks, Mutley. I will visit that link when I have some time ;)

Hi Redcap - no, it wasn't Life of Pi, I heard that was some sort of existential nonsense so gave it a wide berth. I kept watching Space Odyssey waiting for the denouement when everything would make sense, but as you know, it never came :( I like some modern art too, just not the things like cans of (literally) crap, or an 'installation' which is really just a floor covered with lino...

Graffiti - Ah! My long-lost brother Tony! Thanks for coming by, complimentary new visitors are always welcome ;p

hazelblackberry said...

So what was the book?

As for becoming the mustachioed woman, save muscle energy on bringing those brows down and just glue fake eyelashes on to your upper lip!

Anyway, magic realism was never my thing. Nor "1000 books you must read/places you must go/things you must do before you die or you will lie on your death bed knowing what a complete failure you've been."

Lonie Polony said...

*Sigh* just to stop it becoming more of an overblown big thing than it already is, it was 'A Place Called Here' by Cecelia Ahearn. I thought it sounded fun but it was...well you read what I thought. I know, serves me right. Squandering one of my precious book gift vouchers on it is punishment enough.