Lasso Round the Moon (2)

Because I’m a rat-bastard, I don’t feel I really know a book (or a person for that matter) until I can pinpoint a flaw—or three. It seemed in poor taste to call out stylistic infelicities of Lasso Round the Moon in my previous post, when I strongly believe that it’s well worth your time. But I do have a few grievances with Mykle’s prose. He’s excessively sentimental. He’ll evoke all 13 shades of melancholia and all eight shades of remorse only to say that the character who is suffering from these profound emotions is weighted down by melancholy and remorse. Yes, I get it. I got it before you said it. In the world of adspeak, this tendency is castigated as mawkish see & say. What’s more, Mykle is prone to clichés that should be eliminated from the language entire. “Heart of hearts,” no thank you. Or Ash “smells the smell of” a woman, or beer, or salted cod, or roasted reindeer, or whatever it is that he smells the smell of. Expressions like these are dreadfully lazy, right up there with “thinking outside the box,” which makes me wince whenever I hear a box-dweller utter it. Lastly, Mykle’s framing device creates the effect that the book is all middle. There’s a brief intro and a brief outro, and in between them is the massive middle girth of a middle-aged man who should eat less carbs and do more sit ups. But because the sentiments in Mykle’s prose are so right, so true and honest, although excessive, and because of the extraordinary aesthetic effect of the closing scenes, I forgive Mykle his see & say, and forgive him his stupid clichés, as well as his spare
tire. I do.

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5 Responses to Lasso Round the Moon (2)

  1. nicole says:

    I have the same “problem” as you and sometimes feel like I’ve gotten a bit of an unfair reputation as a “Negative Nancy.” But like you I can also be completely forgiving of these things; it’s just that I know they’re there and can’t help noting them. Like the new David Mitchell…I loved it, but I’ve already been taken as anti-recommending it, it seems. Ah well.

    • Kevin Neilson says:

      From a Negative Nick to a Negative Nancy, I must say that I find it very interesting what a reader, especially a good one, forgives in a writer, and why. Months ago, I had an offline conversation with Colleen about objective and subjective factors in literature, and how they bump into each other in weird fascinating ways.

  2. Colleen says:

    I only seem to have this problem with books everyone else loves. And then I miss awkward sentences in David Mitchell novels (number9dream) and have to have you point them out to me because I’m so bedazzled.

  3. Matt Rowan says:

    It’s important to do what you do, Kevin. I have a friend who seems to read every novel I’ve read after me and then seems perfectly calibrated to find whatever flaws are most glaring to the narrative — flaws I either was willing to overlook because of general enjoyment of the novel or flaws I didn’t notice in the first place.

    Fact is, try as I might not to agree, he always has a point. It’s helpful to open up my perspective with that point, likewise. And so it’s good for criticism to consist of both the negative and the positive. I’m trying to get better at the former, accordingly. ( Although part of the problem is if I’ve read a novel to the end it must needs to have impressed me in some way (making negative criticism more difficult, naturally) — or otherwise I’m testing my pain threshold. It’s one of the two).

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