5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Oh, what a disappointment.....,
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This review is from: Light Years (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
I bought this book full of hope having skimmed Richard Ford's glowing introduction ( I should say that I had just read John Williams' 'Stoner' and had been absolutely knocked out by its subtle use of language and restrained but devastating prose. Truly a great novel.)This, however, is a classic case of style over substance. Richard Ford makes a brave, but wholly unconvincing case for the novel transcending its subject matter (the slowly disintegrating marriage of two utterly uninteresting characters) to become a dissection of America's collapsing culture under the growth of materialism and ethical collapse. This is difficult to detect when wading through pages of self-consciously poetic prose that all too frequently collapses into empty phrase-making and often meaningless or risible descriptions ("A perfect day begins in death, in the semblance of death, in a deep surrender. The body is soft, the soul has gone forth, all strength, even breath. There is no power for good or evil, the luminous surface of another world is near, enfolding, the branches of the trees tremble outside." This portentous and pretentious nonsense continues remorselessly throughout the book. This is a novel about shallow and uninteresting people, of course, but the author never uses them to suggest that there is another world beyond their lives that could serve as a condemnation of their trivial and tedious excursions into adultery and utter self-absorption. Salter's famed sentencees quickly become irritating in their calculated poeticisms that never get close to anything truly poetic. The novel is an exercise in style, and in the absence of real content, is an exhausting and tedious read. It clarified for me why I have never really taken to Ford's novels either -does anyone have any liking for Frank Boscombe, another tediously self-absorbed character (though 'Canada' is much better) - but if you really want to read great writing, go read Williams' 'Stoner'.
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Initial post: 30 May 2014 17:18:25 BDT
I agree with your review. I have tried several times with this novel, essentially because I was enjoying enjoyed some of Slater's prose, but ultimately found the narrative and characters utterly uninvolving, and have put the book to one side (for good now, I imagine). It's interesting that Ford writes the introduction since I also really struggled with his Independence Day. A turgid boring read, not totally without merit since there are interesting insights and a nice turn of phrase, but again I just simply couldn't reach the end. Will check out Stoner though.
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