Saturday, August 23, 2014

Because of You, a Novel illustrating how annoying it is to use the second person

It's not written in second person, not really--what I mean to say is that the first person narrator spends most of the novel in direct address to a man who is stalking her. With sentences like, "You were waiting for me at the bus stop. Seeing you made my stomach turn over, like a fish was dying in it. You smiled, your perfect teeth reminding me of a wolf from a fairy tale story that ended badly." I made those passages up, but you get the gist. I only read about fifty pages before giving up.

 Look, I know it's fiction and we should maintain our willing suspension of disbelief, but I was annoyed that the woman didn't consider going to the police to report her stalker until well into the harassment. And when she did, the police were like, Has he hurt you? Threatened you? No. Then there's nothing we can do. That may be true, I don't know. But it's still annoying to read a book where the suspense created isn't because of an interesting story with compelling characters, it's because of a victim whose main action is waiting to be attacked again.

I should remember this problem for when I teach fiction again--we want our central characters to  be active participants in the story, not little lambs bumping around in their day-to-day existence, waiting to be slaughtered. Do something, damnit. I also was annoyed early on by the writer doing that thing where she describes the narrator by having her look at herself in the mirror: "She noticed that her brown shoulder length bobbed hair had become threaded with white and her cornflower blue eyes with the thick eyelashes were looking haggard and dull." Cheater!

I also started reading Madness, by that woman who wrote Wasted--she likes to put herself on the entire cover of her memoirs--here, I found myself annoyed by the over-dramatization of the story. I like my nonfiction writers a bit like Cheryl Strayed--flat and matter of fact, rather than overwrought. This woman's story is compelling because she's struggling with undiagnosed bipolar disorder, but again, there was something victim-y about it. It didn't help that she was from an upper middle class family and so money wasn't an issue in terms of her care; it was just that she wouldn't or couldn't stay still enough to get help, and the cash flow allowed her to get even more crazy--to drive off to Mexico and live on whiskey in bad hotels without fear of running out of money. Her writing is affecting in some ways--difficult to read as she's purposefully cutting her own wrist, not in a suicide attempt, but because she wants to feel something. But then she would have passages like, :"I am standing on the cathedral steps. I am flying. I am drinking a bottle of vodka, where am I? I wake up on the floor with a velvet cushion pressed to my head and take the little pill that has appeared before me and disappear again."

I must be in the throes of something myself, perhaps annoyed that I feel like a victim of circumstances I created, and so I'm doubly-irritated when I see that quality in others--this inability to find the door yourself, to figure out how to get out.

No comments: