Today folks, allow me to present the Narrow Interest of the Week Award. And the winner is…Left Neglected by Lisa Genova(Ph.D.)! Oh brother, when the cover of the trade paperback edition includes an endorsement by Jodi Picoult you know you’re in for a bummer. From the NLS annotation:
High-powered executive and working mom Sarah Nickerson survives a car wreck with a condition called “left neglect.” No longer aware of the left side of her body and unable to see anything on her left, she ponders an uncertain future. Some strong language and some descriptions of sex.
Okay, I looked it up, and this book has 336 pages in the print version. So, I’m going to assume that the accident probably takes place in the first 50 pages (at most, right?) and that for another 280 this dummy is “ponder[ing] an uncertain future.”
BOR-ING. Why why why? Why does a book exist called Left Neglected that only deals with this medical phenomenon of left neglect? And that is why, in case you hadn’t figured it out by now, I award Lisa Genova the Narrow Interest of the Week Award. At the very least Sarah Nickerson should look into getting a left side transplant with the left side of a cadaver, right? Let’s mix it up a bit, people!
Now, I want to address the “strong language…some descriptions of sex” part of the annotation. I can be honest with you, Gentle Reader, I have no intention of reading this book. But I have every intention of commenting on what I think the content of this book might be. First; strong language. I think the strong language in the book will be situations where Sarah Nickerson curses her invisible left side loudly. As in, “damn you you useless piece of shit, I never favored you anyway,” or, “you good-for-nothing son-of-a-bitching left-side, go f*ck yourself!”
Which brings me to part two of the content disclaimer: some descriptions of sex. Really? If this book describes, in any detail, a sexual encounter in which her neglected left side leads to some wacky sex-hijinks, I must object. As in,
- Me: Objection, Your Honor.
- Judge: On what grounds?
- Me: On the grounds that this is stupid.
- Judge: Sustained.
See? Even the legal system agrees with me–this book is most likely stupid, and at the very least, lame. But, if you’ve read this post and for some crazy reason you still think you should read this book, here is a handy link to purchase it privately. I wouldn’t risk checking this doo-doo-pie out at your library, if I were you–somebody might see you. At least Amazon will ship it in a plain brown corrugated wrapper.
*my own disclaimer: if this book had been about somebody losing feeling of their left side due to a stroke, I wouldn’t have made fun. I’m sorry if you, or someone you love, has experienced “left neglect,” but that doesn’t negate the fact that this book sounds stupid to me, and, as a matter of course, must be ridiculed.
William Faulkner had it goin’ on. Susan Froderberg does not. Even her name elicits ridicule from somebody like me. The “froder” in Froderberg is too close to “Frodo” and should have been replaced by a pen name. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Experimental, or poetic prose, is great. I actually enjoy it in the by-and-by. But I don’t think it was the mood I was in that made this book unreadable. Yes, unreadable as in– I did my best to read this book and could not. If it had not been a library book I would have chucked it at a wall as punishment for being such a rock solid turd. And yet still, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Old Border Road is a first novel for author, Susan Froderberg. She studied medical ethics back East and was brought up in Washington state. I have no idea what convinced her to write this book. As far as I can tell, it is a story of a 17-year-old new bride named Katherine who is living in Southern Arizona in the 1970s(?), with her in-laws, on a ranch. Soon after getting married, I can tell that the young husband runs around drinking and carousing, her dad writes her letters, there is a drought, she learns to ride a horse, and her mother is a slutty tramp.
For a while (two nights in a row) I tried reading the book word for word. Then, last night, I tried skipping whole pages. At some point I can tell that somebody dies. The only way I know that the girl is 17 is from a review I found online. The father-in-law may be the young husband’s grandfather. Not in a family scandal kind of way, it’s just that I think he’s the grandfather but she refers to him as a father and his wife refers to the young husband, Son, as her actual, “son.”
From the book description found on Amazon:
Katherine is 17, living alone in the beautiful, desolate landscape of southern Arizona. Her mother is feckless, her father busy with his new family. Meeting Son, the scion of a local rancher, seems like deliverance. They marry and live as a family in his parents’ venerable adobe house, but it soon becomes clear that Son is a man who, as his father says, has a “young heart near withered beneath the breastbone.”
Katherine must find her own way during a dangerous months-long drought, when everything seems to be disintegrating around her. Susan Froderberg’s incantatory language–and her deep knowledge of both the complexities of a small, deeply-rooted place and the human heart–make OLD BORDER ROAD soar.
The one thing that I can say good about this book, as it relates to this blog, is that the NLS has not, as yet, recorded the book. Thank you Thighmaster. Since this poop-sandwich came out in December 2010 and it isn’t on the NLS horizon yet, I think I’m safe from having to catalog it.
Here is a bit of the “prose” from the book. I, once again, pay thanks to Amazon:
No, not here. Not in this place. I would have to go to him. But what? Go back to his office? But not his office, not the church. And not his home, not with his wife. All right, a ride. I could suggest a ride. We’ll find a cool place near water, find a place to settle in the shade. As if such a place existed anywhere nearby. But if it did. There could be a somewhere I haven’t found here yet.
Most of the time, I have no idea who, or what this idiot is talking about. She just seems to wander around the page with her word processor program dropping words and punctuation. I “get” that this book is supposed to be artistic and some totally awesome post-modern comment on the human struggle. Fart on that. This book is straight up literary self-indulgence. And, come to think of it, regular indulgence because I really have to ask my standard question #2: who green-lighted this shit?
I’m actually thinking of filling out the paperwork at my public library to “challenge” this book and have it removed from the shelves on the grounds that it may actually set literacy back 100 years and is, therefore, a danger to us all. At the very least, they could move the book’s location to the EHB’s Memorial Shelf for Shitty Books (ribbon cutting ceremony TBA).
Susan Froderberg; go back to the Shire. You make me wish I’d never learned to read.
This week’s selection comes on the suggestion of a fellow LBPH Librarian friend of mine, MW. I haven’t started cataloging this month’s selection of audio turds, so MW helpfully passed along this overly complicated Victorian Romance novel.
Untie My Heart by Judith Ivory is set in Victorian England and sounds like a room-temperature mess. I’ve heard that in England you can’t get cold water because they haven’t invented ice, or something, so everything is room temperature and all the food is boiled. So, this one is a room-temperature mess, not a fully “hot mess.” From the NLS annotation:
1890s. Returning to England to claim his inheritance, Stuart Aysgarth, the new viscount Mount Villiars,
accidentally runs over one of widow Emma Hotchkiss’s lambs. Emma schemes to recoup her loss while Stuart concocts his own plot involving revenge on a usurping uncle. Includes recipes. Some explicit descriptions of sex.
I count 4 periods in this annotation, but there are really only two sentences. Yet somehow, in these two sentences, this annotation manages to confuse the crap out of me. It seems to be mainly made up of just keywords: England, inheritance, viscount, widow, revenge. Add to that the following ridiculous words that really don’t need to be part of any romance novel: runs-over, lamb, schemes, recoup, concocts, usurping. But the most bizarre of all is the phrase: “includes recipes.” Recipes for what? Lamb? English food? How does this story, as I understand it from this annotation and the Publishers Weekley review found at Amazon.com, lend to effing recipes?
Then you’ve got these ridiculously named characters: Aysgarth and Hotchkiss. Have we run out of traditionally “English” names for romance novels? While people in the “real world” may be naming their kids “Haylee” and “Joarden” and “Tyffany” and even some “Apples, Suris, Bronxs”, et. al. I see no defendable reason to start giving the characters in books set prior to the 20th century these whacked-out, overly spelled and underly considered, monikers.
What may recommend the book more than the plot, run over lambs, and recipes(?) is the sex. All the sexy, sexy, sex. The PW review on Amazon makes reference to this “sensual tale,” a series of “sexual games,” some more “sexual interludes,” and an overall, “warmly spiced” atmosphere. No mention of food though. PW did mention that the heroine is found out to have “cooked his books” but I’m pretty sure that it isn’t a sex- or cooking reference.
PW does mention something that really grates on my nerves and I’m glad they did, because even if the stupidly described plot hadn’t been enough to warn me off, this did the trick. The reviewer mentions “expository and noticeably anachronistic prose” and I’m telling you, that burns me up like nothing else. Either keep your dialogue and exposition brief so you can’t funk it up, or LEARN TO SPEAK VICTORIAN ENGLISH. It isn’t difficult. Just read half a dozen actual Victorian novels. If you write your book fast enough after reading, you can’t help but achieve the proper lingo.
As usual, reading is not something to be taken lightly. Always use the proper safety restraints. Check your mirrors, and watch out for lambs.