Wednesday, January 5, 2011

On finding the crux ... part II

Moving on.

I think my main issue with fiction written in first person is tenses. Most authors who write FP go for a kind of vague present-past (there is probably a literary term for this, but I go to culinary school) where the action is primarily assumed to be happening either right now or some hazy five-minutes-ago period. This stretches believability for me - it makes me think, for whatever reason, that this character is somehow taking time away from being a character to be a narrator in their own stories. I'm not sure I'm making myself clear, but this is the best I can explain it. The best stories written in FP, for me, establish when the story is taking place in relation to when the story is being narrated. Margaret Atwood, for example, pulls this off all the time, seamlessly. The story-telling feels natural, not forced and not muddled with stupid headvoices and their inescapable need to make stupid observations.

Headvoices, you know. The ultimate downfall of FP, and one of my major grievances with AB:VH. Anita Blake's headvoice is dumb (see blog tittle!). There is a reason people do not say every thought that pops into their brain - because no one is particularly interested in your white noise. If I spent my day talking like Anita Blake thinks, someone would surely put me out of my misery. LKH allows Blake to prattle on and on about shit that I don't care about, or shit she's already told me a million times, or most often, shit I don't care about AND she's told me a million times. I get it! Dolph never says goodbye on the phone! You are really into your Browning Hi-Power! Your shoulder holster chafes! YOU DON'T WEAR BASE, AND FOR FUCK'S SAKE IT'S CALLED "FOUNDATION" YOU DUMB TWAT.

You see? I'm raging just thinking about it. There are sentences in these books that genuinely make me want to burn everything she has ever written. She has this overwhelming need to repeat the most irritating turns of phrase (like ending any mention of her own much lauded smart-assery with "who me?") and most offensively, ANSWERING her own STUPID QUESTIONS. "Could it be? Naw." "Would I do that? Ri-ight." Yes. Yes "Ri-ight" [sic] shows up all the time. In some books, it's "Ri----ight." In others, it's "Riiiiight." Why would anyone do that? What about that obnoxious late 90's parlance would make anyone think it is okay to put that in a written work that does not feature David Spade?

Anita Blake's - despite her shallow yet frequent existential crises - biggest fan is herself. I've never met a more undeservedly self-involved main character. It's like the character is so self-involved that the rest of her fictional world is consumed by her gaping face hole like a fucking vacuum. It's hard to watch the potential of this series fall into that sucking abyss. For all her faults, LKH did manage to build an intriguing alternaverse. It's not a new idea by any stroke of the imagination, but there is enough nuance in her world to make it different and interesting. And yet? And yet. Everything she could have done with this world and these characters is more or less destroyed by the epic lameness of it's heroine/psycho cunt/sniveling pansy (depending on the book, you see, because although one of Blake's many favorite phrases is "At least I'm consistent" - the absolute opposite is true.)

So the big question becomes: Why? Why am I doing this to myself? Because I must. It's train wreck syndrome at it's finest. I also am pretty incapable of starting a series and not seeing it through to it's gory end. I did not seek this series out on purpose - it found me. A dear friend answered my request for some good and solid trashy book with Guilty Pleasures. Like, it's CALLED Guilty Pleasures. I would think it was almost a wink, but I can't give LKH that much credit. And it really does start off ... not great, but not offensively bad. It starts off like a silly and fun jaunt through a silly world with silly characters. There is no sex in the earlier books. None! They are a huge tease, because really, you pick up these books thinking they will be full of blood and sex and terrible dialogue. You get the blood and dialogue, but the sex isn't there. So you feel cheated, insistent that if you keep going, if you plow through just one more, your payoff will arrive all wrapped up in a leather harness and a ball gag. Well. You know. It does. But by the time it gets there, you realize this was all a horrible mistake and you are too far gone to turn back.

What does LKH do right? There are things. Some things. Her pacing is more or less spot on. If she could get past the redundancy and the headvoice, there would never be a dull moment in any of her stories. Like so many of her FP brethren, she gets caught up in unnecessary details, so will often spend too long talking about furniture (hello, Anne Rice! I have missed your 14 page love letters to an ottoman). I could get past it. When the sex does show up in full frontal force, it is ... surprisingly ... not badly written. There are - I won't so "no" but - very few corny adjectives or euphemisms like I was wholly expecting. They don't ramble on, but they're not exactly clipped. They last as long as they need to. And you know how some sex scenes in books practically radiate the discomfort and awkwardness of the author? Hers do not. She is confident in that, at least.

Otherwise? Uh. Right.

I'm sure I've already made clear that I'm, at this moment, only halfway through the series. I may be forced to redact some or all of the above once I get through the whole thing. After having glimpsed the wiki for her already-ridiculous variety of were-animals, I am pretty sure things will only get worse. My plan is to hold on to my rage for as long as possible, because once I just start accepting all of this bullshit I'm being thrown, I will see no other recourse but to hang up my hat and blow my fucking head off.

So! Audience of none! The ultimate question is: should you read this series?


Are you fucking stupid? Have you learned nothing? KEEP YOUR PURITY AND RUN, FOR FUCKS SAKE.

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