BOOK & BLOG
March 3, 2008
Books of the Week: WICKED LOVELY by Melissa Marr, AWAY by Amy Bloom, THE RUINS by Scott Smith
What a reading week it’s been. I came off a few days of being dissatisfied with everything I started to find several books I read all the way through, only to have a “I enjoyed this, but . . .” reaction to all of them.
Melissa Marr’s WICKED LOVELY is a young adult book with a lot to recommend it. Aislinn is a girl who goes to a private high school, and she lives with her grandmother. Aislinn’s life has always been full of rules, since she can see fairies. Her grandmother has taught her very carefully that she should always pretend she can’t see them, that once she acknowledges them she’ll be doomed. Aislinn knows the fairies can’t go where there’s a lot of iron, and she’s very interested in Seth, an older young man who lives in a railway car. She’s very cautious about exploring her feelings for Seth, and he’s equally careful about moderating his reactions to her. But Aislinn’s life is about to change forever, because the Summer King, Keenan, thinks Aislinn might his Summer Queen. There were something about the relationships in this book that I never understood, and I’m not sure if this was my fault or the writer’s; but I did enjoy the originality of the characters and the way the plot worked out.
AWAY by Amy Bloom is a novel about a Russian Jewish girl, Lillian, who comes to America having lost everything daughter, husband, parents in a pogram. Lillian is absolutely determined to find a life and build herself some security by any means possible in this new country. She is well on her way to doing so (she becomes mistress of an actor in the Yiddish theater) when she hears from another immigrant that her daughter, Sophie, may be alive. Lillian abandons the precarious safety she’s found and heads across America to find her daughter. This is a most unusual book. I think there’s a very realistic slant to it, since Lillian simply sweeps aside any moral qualms she might have felt because she’s hungry and penniless. She has a variety of adventures, some good, some horrible, and in the end, she finds a sort of peace.
I also read Scott Smith’s THE RUINS. The opening chapters of this horror novel are very reminiscent of Shirley Jackson in their creeping sense of dread, in the ominous details that keep piling up around a seemingly innocuous outing. But as the book progresses, Smith makes several interesting points that the typical horror novel generally ignores. The travelers fall into trouble because they don’t take the time to listen to the natives; they ignore plentiful warnings; and they don’t know the customs of the country. (Okay, maybe that happens a lot in the movies, but it’s made very clear here if they’d taken a bit more trouble to understand the language, they’d have been okay.) And the “hero” figure is as misguided as any of the other characters. He plays out his role, but the result isn’t a Hollywood moment. Hint: vines will make you nervous for a while after you read this book.
For the third or fourth time, I think I know when “True Blood” will finally be on the air. The word now is that it’ll debut in the fall, when “Entourage” starts its new season. I should have been taking this all in stride, but this is the first time any of my Hollywood entanglements has gone this far. Before, I’d have some work of mine optioned, there’d be a spate of emails from time to time, the project would die. Fairly typical, and getting this far happens to lots of writers. It’s pretty much money for nothing, and therefore welcome.
Because of Alan Ball’s clout and talent, the series based on the Sookie Stackhouse books has gone much farther. First, the script was written, and then the pilot was cast and shot, and then HBO picked it up, and then the second and third episodes were cast and shot, and then . . . the writer’s strike struck. Now, it appears, things are chugging back into movement.
In previous experiences, I never got too excited, because it never seemed very real. As I’ve said before in other blogs, this is beginning to seem very real indeed, real enough for me to worry about. That’s both pleasant and unpleasant. This is a super worry to have, but any worry is just more added to my normal helping (anyone with three children always has a heaping plate of worry waiting on the table). I worry about the debut of the series, and hope people will like it. I hope my sales figures jump when the series debuts. I wonder if I’ll go to the premiere, and if so, what I should wear. At least I don’t have to worry if I’ll like the show or not, since I’ve read the script and it’s wonderful. But what about episodes Mr. Ball doesn’t write? The thought processes go on and on, and it’s much better to just shut it out and do something I can control, like writing.
Or at least, I thought I could control the writing. About a hundred pages into the next Sookie book, I suddenly thought of a plot twist, and set off on a tangent. The writing went GREAT, and the writing went swiftly, and before I knew it . . . I’d written the end of the book. Only problem? I hadn’t written about two hundred pages of middle. At least I realized this right away, and I’ll be starting on the middle this week. It was a strange feeling, to look back on the twenty or so pages of the debatable passage, and think, “If I come back to the main problem of the book after this, the whole rest of the book will be an anticlimax. This is the end of the book, not an episode in the book.”
The more books I write, the less I know, apparently. There’s never a book where I think, “This time I know how to do it: A, then B, then C . . .” Every single book is a learning experience, that’s what keeps the writing life interesting. I’m hoping the same theory will stand true for my experiences with the television industry.
© 2009 Charlaine Harris