9.11.04

Productive weekend

I just completed a very productive weekend: banking, errands (including laundry), magazine editing, etc. all getting done. It's really incredible how much better life seems when you see that check next to the "To Be Done" list and that pile of papers/trash growing.

My only complaint is that I didn't had enough time to read my new book. I was looking for something "good" to read after two disappointments in a row (something I haven't experienced in a while). I found one, but which book it is isn't important. What is important is why the two books I read were, in my mind, disappointing.

Because of my job, I read a lot of YA Literature. Now, some of it is really good, with interesting characters and plots and all that. C.S. Lewis said that a good story can be read by anyone at any time, and I agree with that: just because the intended audience is much younger than I doesn't mean that I won't really enjoy it just as much. The three big trends in YA Lit seem to be Harry Potter-esque, Lemony Snickett-esque and Darren Shan-esque. The problem is that, while imitation can be the sincerest form of flattery, often it's done poorly. The Prophecy of the Stones is a meld of Harry Potter/Lord of the Rings/Jane Yolen/Diana Wynne Jones and written by a 14-year-old. That, of course, is the salient point: the author was 14. To tell the truth, it's quite good for someone that age, but it's not quite good enough. At least, I don't think so.

One of the bigger problems is that Prophecy was described as "The Next Harry Potter". That's an automatic UH-OH. Anything that's "The Next" probably isn't (I mean, really, the Bay City Rollers were so not "The Next Beatles"). That doesn't necessarily mean it won't be good, but the expectations one has of something being The Next are inevitably not met.

The other book I read, Codex, was The Next Da Vinci Code. And again, it wasn't. It wasn't even a good imitation. I had no interest in the characters or the plot; I honestly contemplated not finishing it. The last book I didn't finish was several years ago, The Mark Twain Murders (the killer was when an academic library was shelved according to Dewey and Twain was located in the 820s - if you're a librarian you know how wrong that is!). Codex didn't have any such egregious errors, it was just boring. If you're going to be Da Vinci-esque, at least talk more about the book mystery and how that's resolved. This was one of those blink-and-you-missed-it solutions.

I do enjoy series-type reading. Good series, that is. One problem is when the author loses the thread or the charm as the series grows. Martha Grimes, for example, did that with her Richard Jury series. Her solution? Write a few books that weren't part of the series and voila, the series improved. Reginald Hill, on the other hand, has not lost his ability to write a good read. Good Morning... Midnight has restored my enjoyment of the written word. Now I'm on to The Next (next) Da Vinci Code. More on that later.

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