**spoiler alert** I picked this up at the Hospital book sale: I figured I should read it to be culturally literate.
The Handmaid's Tale begins as a fab...more**spoiler alert** I picked this up at the Hospital book sale: I figured I should read it to be culturally literate.
The Handmaid's Tale begins as a fable: a fairy-tale world far enough removed from our own that it can be comfortably dismissed as fiction. But once we've become familiar with the new world, the nameless narrator starts to recollect to how her world came to be that way, and the erstwhile fairy tale becomes an exquisite horror story. After giving the reader nightmares, Margaret Atwood is kind enough to close with an epilogue that reassures the reader that history will move on and recover from even the worst regimes, at least in some unidentifiable part of the world. The final distance is enough to keep the book from being too depressing, but anyone who thinks "Oh, that could never happen" need look no further than the Iranian revolution to be reminded that it could, and it has.(less)
I was in McLean & Eakin Booksellers and felt obliged to patronize them (since if they went out of business, it would be tragic), so I picked up a...moreI was in McLean & Eakin Booksellers and felt obliged to patronize them (since if they went out of business, it would be tragic), so I picked up a copy there. And I'm so glad I did!(less)
Normally I wait until I’ve finished a book before passing judgment on it, but sixty pages into The Lost Symbol I decided that life was too short to re...moreNormally I wait until I’ve finished a book before passing judgment on it, but sixty pages into The Lost Symbol I decided that life was too short to read really terrible books.
One of the things I liked best about The Da Vinci Code was that its plot unfolded in real-time: it takes place during a few very busy hours of Robert Langdon’s improbable life, in about the amount of time it takes to read the novel. This technique keeps the pace of the book exciting (there are no natural breaks in which to put the book down, because you are right there with Langdon for each plot development and puzzle solution), but also demonstrates the kind of discipline on the part of the author also shown in a really well-rhymed sonnet that commands the respect of the (or, at least, this) reader. This is the novelistic equivalent of Scribe’s well-made play (a cinematic example would be the film Arsenic and Old Lace with Cary Grant, one of my favorites).
The Lost Symbol, however, is anything but disciplined. The point of view, time, and place bounce around every one or two minutes, evincing not the well-put-together thriller of The Da Vinci Code, but rather the attention span of a three-year-old. Each scene lasts about as long as a television commercial, and juxtaposed scenes have about as much connecting them as two adjacent television commercials.
Another piece of sloppiness: during my brief encounter with the novel, I encountered the phrase “exact same” five times. A good friend of mine used to be in the habit of correcting anyone who dared to let that phrase pass his or her lips (because, after all, if two things really are the same, then the word “exact” is superfluous, not to mention grammatically suspect), so while I will tolerate the phrase as a spoken colloquialism, my feeling is now that only the most careless of writers would ever commit such a phrase to print.
With all the doors that must be open for Dan Brown after the phenomenal success of The Da Vinci Code, how difficult could it have been for him to sit in on a lecture of a popular course at a prestigious liberal arts college? I only wonder because no college course I have ever attended proceeded anything like the one shown in one of the many (many, many) flashbacks early in the book (although, admittedly, I did not go to Harvard, but I suspect the students there would not be so easily impressed by something as shocking as (gasp!) pointing out that the Church has rituals of its own. I mean, come on, these kids are taking a course called “Occult Symbols”: what did they expect?)
So I have no doubt that, if I had read the book in its entirety, everything would turn out to be not as it seemed in a shocking plot twist near the end, but, really, there are too many good books out there for me to waste my time on this one.(less)