03 November 2012

Sag Harbor, by Colson Whitehead

Couldn't do it. I made it through 2-3 chapters and decided that life is too short to read that much description. Then we went to the living room [insert several paragraphs, lovingly teeming with VERY EXPRESSIVE adjectives, about the living room]. I thought about making myself some lunch [insert multiple paragraphs about what he likes for lunch, what his brother likes, why Campbell's Homestyle Chicken Soup with Egg Noodles is the best, etc. No seriously. "It was the Cadillac of canned soup, the noodles firm yet pliant on the tongue, the ratio of celery and carrots consistent and reliable. The tiny amber globules of fat shimmered on the surface in an enticing display, to delight the eye."]. Who is this guy's editor?

Have you ever taken a creative writing class? Do you remember the first piece you wrote, and how proud of it you were, and how your classmates were like "Dude, that's an awesome description of a football field. I really felt like I was there." And your your teacher said "well yes, it's very nice, but there is no plot." When you first try your hand at fiction, you describe the ever loving shit out of everything. I think it's because that's what you think of as 'literary,' or maybe it's just that it comes easily and makes things seem vivid, I don't know. And when someone tells you to cut your fantastic portrayal of autumn leaves, you think to yourself that they clearly don't appreciate your genius. Well, the first few chapters of this novel finally made me understand why those teachers tell you to cut the descriptions down. Nobody cares that you can clearly depict a can of Homestyle Chicken Soup if your plot is completely stagnant. There was absolutely nothing happening in this book that I cared about. Admittedly, this is partly because I'm not very interested in coming-of-age stories. I hated adolescence. I have no desire to relive it by reading about someone else's. So the narrator fretting over how his life is changing, and whether there would be enough seats in the car for him to go to the beach, and of course, will he ever get laid, is just not that compelling to me. The book is slightly more interesting because the protagonist is black, so at least there's some exploration of racial identity, but that's not innovative enough to make me want to read it instead of something else.

There's definitely a little voice in the back of my head that is chiding me for giving up on this book - though it chides me for giving up on any book, so it's opinion isn't entirely credible - but I think I'll get over it.

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