Saturday, December 26, 2009

#11: I See You Everywhere

The really scary thing is that sometimes what you're afraid of happens. Sure, mostly the car doesn't crash. Your library books are where you left them and you grab, effortlessly, the bar of the trapeze.

But sometimes -only sometimes, enough to give your fear a frisson of reality but not enough to have it do you any good- you slide off the road. You left Anne of Green Gables under the seat on the bus to Camp Digeridoo at Lake Lemon, and your hands clench midair.

In such cases, it is important to remember that fear, realized, is the exception. 98% of what you're worried about never comes to pass, and the rest of the shit that happens to you is stuff you weren't smart enough to dread. Still, when that 2% of your nightmares solidifies into just exactly what kept you up at night, it sucks.

I was afraid Julia Glass was overrated. When I added her novel I See You Everywhere to my list for My Year of Reading Dangerously, I had been tracking the book-world buzz over the unexpected nomination of her earlier book Three Junes for a National Book Award. I was afraid that Glass's critics were right, that she wasn't National Book Award material. I was afraid that her novel would be tepid, like tea from a twice-dunked bag.

Make that tea from a thrice-dunked bag. A four-times-under-the-water bag, a bag so thoroughly abused it releases no color, but floats to the top of your cup like a white, sad, overweeningly dead teabag-shaped jellyfish.

Say you are a book. You are permitted to have a) a good plot or b) good writing. If you are exciting drivel, I will read you. If you are glacial but lovely, I will read you. In an ideal, fairy-princess, castle-in-the-sky world, you are possessed of clean prose and masterful plotting and we will retire to bed together and be very happy. But you are not allowed to be BOTH boring and stilted. No no no no!

Louisa and Clem (short for Clement) are sisters. One is beautiful and brave; the other is smart and scared. They fight. They chase men. They feel sorry for themselves and housesit and edit art magazines and regret not pursuing their pottery and...ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. Whoops, sorry, dropped off there.

The most maddening thing is that every single potentially interesting scene -the sisters fighting over the same man, a maiden Aunt striking out on her own- HAPPENS OFFSTAGE. I wanted to howl. I wanted to seize Julia Glass by the shoulders and shake. I wanted to sweep aside the interminable phone conversations and the poorly-drawn cleaning-out-the-barn scene and the scene where Louisa sits on the beach and thinks- and drag the meat of the story back where it belongs.

Alas, I'm not the author. If I were, I'd refund myself the seven hours of my life I spent slogging through my massively mediocre novel.

Don't read I See You Everywhere. Read a better, older young adult book by Katherine Patterson called Jacob Have I Loved. It's about two sisters. One is beautiful and brave. The other is smart and scared. Their names are Louise and Caroline.

Gosh, now, this is starting to sound familiar.

1 comment:

Susan said...

Ah, I haven't thought about Jacob Have I Loved in ages. What a good book!
ps: I just finished The Wizard of Earthsea and am very much looking forward to reading the others. How did I miss these growing up?
pps: Hah! My word verfication word this time is "hambswam". I just can't help but giggle :)