My rating: 2 of 5 stars
This is a needlessly big book and it’s filled with visual imagery that so realistically conveys the grimness of life and its grossest aspects that you just want to go kill yourself or hide under a rock.
The day I got to the point in the novel where the graphic intensity reached levels that both bored me and turned me off, I received a pep talk from Jonathan Lethem in my NaNoWriMo mailbox (National Novel Writing Month), to wit:
“The comings and goings, loosening and tightening of faucets, shittings and pissings and nose-blowings of everyday circumstances. Keep them at the periphery, in the subliminal range, unless you really want to try to make something of them, and then you’d better make it good. I’m trying to tell you to ignore transitions. Skip to the good stuff.”
Although MacBride is a good writer who has a great command of the language, he could’ve used this advice. By the time I read the pep talk, when I was about halfway through the novel, I was skipping entire pages, including repetitious reflections filled with guilt and dumb-ass thinking.
But the thing that really got to me, that changed my mind from “liked it” to “it was OK” was when Logan suddenly became stupendously stupid, just so as to fill more pages and keep the plot going a little longer. I thought: really? A detective can’t put two and two together when it’s given to him one right after the other? Really??? I’m supposed to think he’s a good detective when he’s that oblivious? Uh, no. Aside from that, the unrelenting grimness is not something I want to read. I set aside the book for a few days, just to recover. But though I finished it, I didn’t care about whodunnit. I almost always care! But this book wore me out that much.
In the end, I learnt a lesson as a writer. As Lethem put it so well: “Write like you’d read—and notice how much you customarily skip as you read.”