Saturday, May 9, 2009

This Was Supposed To Be a Book Review...

...and maybe it will be once I get to the end of the post. Wait for it...wait for it...

You know, I'm beginning to find my blog ironic. You see, I feel like I'm posting less and less. I review fewer and fewer books and yet more people are following me and subscribing to my feed on Google Reader than ever before - not vastly more, but more nonetheless. I'm pretty sure this is not how it's supposed to work, unless, you people, like me, enjoy the merits of an infrequently updated blog. Some days, I tell you, I do. For one, then my Google Reader doesn't explode with like 50 zillion posts I don't have time to it kind of is exploding now. But then the book blogosphere would be a mighty boring, lame place if everybody blogged like me. What I mean to say is, of course, hello new people and old people, it's a pleasure to have you here reading and commenting and generally being awesome despite my distinct lack of awesomeness.

Today I am contemplating the difficulty, yet again, of reviewing a book that I feel kind of ambivalent about. I pretty much need to review every book I read here because I read like a turtle (and turtles can't even read!) and therefore don't get many books read and therefore don't have many to review. Ah, but it's so hard to be really enthusiastic about reviewing those books that don't naturally create a great feeling of enthusiasm, which is not to say that they're bad, just that they're not super awesometastic enough to jolt me from my general book reviewing laziness.

Also, it's helpful when reviewing books to, um, actually have understood them. This brings me to an informal discussion (but if you're running a challenge that I'm taking part in, we're calling it a book review!) of a book that I barely remember! (This is the part where I attempt to create enthusiasm on both your and my parts with the use of exclamation points!!! Is it working?!?!?)

Anyhow, The Glister by John Burnside. I read it in March, somewhat hungrily devouring its mildly overblown prose thinking that once I reached the end I would understand what it was all about. Like pretty much everyone else whose reviews I have read, I didn't really get it. I thought for a time that maybe I was getting it, but I was fooling myself. I then came upon a sort of problem because I find it hard to frame a review for a book that I didn't understand. Upon reaching the end and trying to formulate some sort of review in my mind, I realized that without at least a basic understanding of what exactly the book was getting at, I don't really have a way to organize or give any sort of theme to my review (imagine that!). Then I realized how important it is to me to have my reviews be cohesive and revolve around some sort of main point, and I don't even know if people or if I even realize I do that. So, this book that would count for two challenges has languished (and languished and languished) on the to be reviewed pile because I'm just...stumped. Ah, but wait, I think I may have something after all...

The Glister is more the story of a town than it is of any one person. Innertown has been decimated by its chemical plant. With the demise of the once successful chemical plant, the town seems to deteriorate and fall in on itself. The plant leaves behind a town populated with ineffectual adults unable to recover from chemical induced ailments or trapped with the grief of losing loved ones and a generation of disaffected children who haunt the abandoned and disintegrating chemical plant property in search of meaning or maybe just a way out of their dismal futures. While the adults seem to be caught up in their own lowgrade misfortune, young boys are disappearing. Instead of seeing this for the problem that it is, all choose to believe that the young teenage boys have simply found a way to escape their fates in Innertown.

I can't tell you much more, except that there's quite a bit of violence, a few teenagers that are actually even h-rnier than you would expect of teenagers, and a good deal of bad language. And this wouldn't have bothered me if it had all added up to something in the end. Instead the book just seems to trail off in yet one more mystery that doesn't seem to make any sense. As it so happens, so much of this book would be promising if only it had all come to something.

If there is indeed a main character for this book, it is Leonard, a teenage boy whose father is dying and whose mother has walked out on them. Leonard's narration crackles and pops with teenage cynicism and wit. He's a good character with a unique and consistent voice. And the atmosphere. The atmosphere in the book is stunning. Burnside manages to create an impression in the reader that Innertown is a place where the sun never shines, where the town's misfortunes cover it like blanket. Even though there are scenes where the sun is actually shining, one can't shake the feeling that this is a place where it is perpetually overcast, and no light shines in. All these things kept me reading in hopes of a fascinating resolution despite my intense dislike of Leonard's freakishly h-rny girlfriend and the various and sundry gratuitous things you would find in an R-rated movie. As you may have guessed, I was ultimately disappointed. The end just doesn't quite come together satisfactorily. It's a little like being led into a maze by someone who knows where they're going and being left halfway through to find your own way out. While I can handle an ambiguous ending, The Glister ultimately leaves too many questions unanswered without so much as a clue to lead its readers to any real resolution.

Hey, wait - I think it is a book review after all! Yay! That was hard. I have to wander off and look at shiny things now. K, bye.

Okay, wait. I've got an ARC of this book that I'd love to unload on the unsuspecting public in hopes that, perhaps, said member of the unsuspecting public could read it and explain it to me. Well, you don't really have to do that if you don't want to, but I'm still giving away the copy. So if you want to have a try at it (now that I've gone to all this trouble convincing you to read it....hardee har har), leave me a comment with your e-mail address. International is okay. I'll draw the name next Saturday, May 16th, so uh, enter before then.


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