This Week, I Read… (#34)

79 - Preacher Gone to Texas

#79 – Preacher, Vol. 1: Gone to Texas, by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon

Preacher was on my to-read list even before the AMC show happened–having just finished watching the first season, this seemed like the right time to finally tackle it. My husband, who has read the entire comic run, let me know that the show so far essentially amounted to a prequel: I’d see some of the show material covered in the very first issues, then speed right on past it.

Now, unless the quality varies wildly from book to show (or book to movie), generally people tend to like most what they experience first: that version becomes the “true” one, and deviations from it, even if it isn’t the original, seem nonstandard.

But I think the show and the comic (so far, this is the first of nine volumes) are equally excellent. Where I can spot the differences, 90% of them I can attribute to altering the structure of the storytelling to suit television, and the other 10% are questionable, but don’t bother me excessively.

Most of the detractors of Preacher the comic seem to object to its lewdness, calling it gratuitous or juvenile or both, but honestly, I was laughing my ass off at pretty much everything. The tone of the humor is definitely irreverent, but I’m down for that, and I’m excited to read the rest of the series once I chug on through these final challenge tasks!

80 - We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

#80 – We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler

  • Read: 8/12/16 – 8/15/16
  • Provenance: Library (hardcover)
  • Challenge: ReadsTheBooks 2016 Reading Challenge; also #readwomensummer
  • Task: Read a book that was in a TV show
  • Rating: 3/5 stars

OITNB-Books-Red-We-Are-All-Completely-Beside-Ourselves

Where else would I turn for a book from a show than Orange is the New Black? Red’s reading list, especially, is eclectic and entertaining. I loved the title of this one, and added it to my TBR as soon as I’d seen the episode (3.11,) months before my reading challenges started.

Overall, I was disappointed by this book–I would have given it 2.5 stars if I did half-star ratings, but I let it keep its 3 in the end because I liked the plot twist so much. I did go into this book blind, so I had no idea what I was in for, and that was a treat.

However, after that, the book fell apart for me. I’ve always felt that I fall into that uncanny valley trap Fowler describes with primates–I’m mentally incapable of thinking them cute or appealing as I do basically every other animal ever. Primates look weird to me. Creepy weird.

That isn’t to say they don’t deserve happy, healthy, and cruelty-free lives, like everyone human and otherwise–but I simply can’t accept the idea of raising a chimp and a human baby side-by-side, and instead of feeling “what it really means to be a human animal” as one back-cover review exhorts me to, I instead felt disgust and horror, directed at the parents for choosing to subject their children to a years-long experiment. I couldn’t relate to Rosemary–I could only pity her. And that doesn’t make for good reading.

81 - The Road

#81 – The Road, by Cormac McCarthy

This is the worst book I’ve read all year, and certainly one of the worst I’ve ever read.

No, that’s not hyperbole.

I have so many issues with this work that it’s difficult to unravel them enough to find a starting point.

So let’s start with style, or the severe lack thereof.

I understand the school of thought that writing has no rules, do whatever you want and if it’s good, people will read it anyway. In this case, apparently they’ll also heap you with praise and shower you with rewards.

But why? Why eschew commas? Why mash together perfectly normal phrases into compound words? Why not mark dialogue, especially when entire pages are devoted to back-and-forth between the two major characters, and after a few lines it gets hard to track who’s speaking? Why not capitalize “spanish” when it’s clearly referring to the language and is thus never not capitalized? Why?

Any stylistic deviations that a) don’t serve the story, and b) make the story harder for the reader to follow or understand–those are nothing more than literary masturbation.

Okay, the story. Nothing happens.

Yeah, the characters go places, and they do things, but it reads like a stream-of-consciousness work at best (no help from the grossly affected style, there) and a fever dream at worst. If the central tenet of the story, the motivation for everything “the man” does, is love for his son, then why did I come away at the end feeling like they didn’t even like each other? They have the same conversation half a hundred times–the boy is scared, the man tries ineptly to reassure him by telling him he’s wrong and that everything is okay EVEN THOUGH EVERYTHING IS PATENTLY NOT OKAY AND YES EVEN A YOUNG CHILD CAN SEE THAT–and it’s all a dull, repetitive cycle of nearly starving to death followed by some completely unexpected cache of goods (the bunker, the ship) that saves their bacon for another few days.

I knew all along that “the man” was going to die because of that persistent cough, but I was hoping by the end I would care. Obvious foreshadowing is obvious.

And the ending was utterly pointless. Okay, so “the boy” finds other people who take him in, people who seem to be better prepared than his father was to look after him–or at least that’s the read I got, based on the gentleman saying they’ve got two kids with them already. But “the boy” finding those people wasn’t a direct result of any action of “the man” so it’s just another lucky coincidence, and narratively speaking, his father’s death carries no weight.

Can we talk about “the boy” for a second, too? Because kids are scared easily, sure, but he’s terrified of everything, which makes no sense, because this horrible world is the only one he’s ever known–the world he was born into. I tried to rationalize that away by accepting his fear as a learned response from his father–monkey see, monkey scared–but at all points, Papa was trying (badly, sure, but trying) to teach him not to be scared. So that argument doesn’t hold water. I’m not saying the boy wouldn’t be scared of anything, but he sure wouldn’t be terrified of going inside every single building they encounter in the entire book.

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