Thursday, 3 May 2012

Digression: Books I'm Reviewing—Lynn Crosbie's 'Life is About Losing Everything'

   Discarded framing devices for a review of Lynn Crosbie’s "fantastical memoir," Life is About Losing Everything:
   i. "Good evening. Welcome to Difficult Listening Hour. The spot on your dial for that relentless and impenetrable sound of Difficult Music. So sit bolt upright in that straight-backed chair, button that top button, and get set"  —from “Difficult Listening Hour,” Laurie Anderson
   ii. "It's never clear if she's entirely in control, or just off her rocker"  —from an online review of a Tori Amos concert

   Reviews about some books virtually write themselves, the successes and shortcomings easily identified. Occasionally, though, a book comes along that resists the review writer's tried-and-true approaches and they need to formulate a new tack.
   Bizarrely unique (uniquely bizarre?), Life is About Losing Everything is one of them.

   For now, I'll re-purpose blurbs from the back cover a newly published and well-financed American novel:
   1. " and nuanced..."? Check, in its own way;
   2. "Wise, timely, ripe with humor and complexity..."? Sometimes, yes, though "wise" and "timely" seem vague to the point of meaninglessness (how many foolish and untimely books are published);
   3. "...draws women's complex lives as brilliantly as Austen or Wharton or Woolf"? Hmm, okay, I can see that;
   4. "...characters so rich and nuanced, and situations so pitch-perfect..."? No to the former, yes to the latter;
   5. the author "has rare humanity, and talent great enough..."? Sure, but what does "rare humanity" even mean?;
   6. "Every minute I was away from this book I was longing to be back in the world she created..."? Yes and no; I enjoyed Life, absolutely, but for me, "longing" is a bit strong to describe my response to a book. I sometimes long for an almond croissant and other times long for a lost love. I can put a book down and return to it a week later; like the loyalist of dogs, I know it'll be waiting for me unchanged.

[The for-real review appeared in the Vancouver Sun.]

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