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 The “froder” in Froderberg is too close to “Frodo” and should have been replaced by a pen name.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.