Mandy Jo's Reviews > The Beginners

The Beginners by Rebecca Wolff
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May 20, 2012

it was ok
Read from May 20 to 29, 2012

This week’s headline? “He Touched Me”

Why this book? supposedly about witches

Which book format? Half Price hardback

Primary reading environment? an unflooded valley

Any preconceived notions? arrogant verbal hyperbole

Identify most with? “shiny twelfth-grade girls”

Three little words? " That’s called ‘dusk’”

Goes well with? “mulchy, nutritious odor”

Recommend this to? an MFA candidate?

“Listen,” she said, as I sat down. “If Cherry won’t tell hers, as host I feel as though I should offer one of mine. But the sad truth is that I never remember my dreams. They’re as mysterious to me as they are to you. You can’t imagine my dreams, can you?”

She talked like that throughout the entire book.

The narrator also observes that:
“Raquel spoke, all the time, in language calculated to impress. It was huge, and smelled of the future.”

So they both speak like assholes. Nearly 300 pages of those two babbling, interspersed with some infrequent action that is somehow both repellent and boring.

The narrator also loves to tell the reader about her dreams, sometimes – gasp! – without first signaling that it is a dream.

I’m pretty sure the first thing we learned in my creative writing course was that in literature – and in everyday conversation – no one wants to hear about your dreams. There is nothing more boring than listening to someone recount their dreams, unless you have made in appearance in the dream. Or you’re their therapist.

This is the first book in a long time that I considered not finishing. I NEVER do that, but this book offered me nothing, and I really needed something good to read this weekend. All I kept thinking, at the turn of every page, was This writer has an MFA. Five separate plot strands and the only thing I took away from it was the moment I finished, glanced at the back flap, and saw that yes, indeed, this writer has an MFA.

I kept reading because I liked the submerged towns that haunted the story, but nothing satisfactory came of that. I'm sorry to be so mean. This just wasn’t the book for me.

Other cultural accompaniments: Twelve and Holding (2005), In Dreams (1999), everything ever written in the debate over the value of MFAs and whether writing can be taught,

Grade: C

I leave you with this: "'I could have been a country singer. I love the wordplay, the double entendres, the semantic reversals," she told me. 'Another microcosmic reduction of our experience into palatable dialect and trope.' I smiled and nodded, although I had no idea what she was talking about. Country music to me was just a sentimental outlet for people from the city."
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