What is this “reading” you speak of?

I’m in a better place today. Promise.

So much better, in fact, that today I plucked a book off my shelf that wasn’t a class assignment. Yes, that’s right, I looked at my bookshelf and selected a book to read for pleasure.

Oh, gosh, I can hardly stand my ridiculous joy. When was the last time I was able to just read ’cause I felt it? A few weeks ago I devoured a trashy romance novel in about five hours just to take a break from thinking about Thesis, but that hardly counts. That’s mind candy (and it wasn’t very good). But this…this is a book, a novel, and it’s glorious.

All right, sure, the book itself is a bit problematic. I chose Lost Nation by Jeffrey Lent. In the first fifteen pages or so, the main character (Blood – cheery fellow, you just know it) wins a teenaged girl in a poker game, takes away her clothing and shoes so they won’t get damaged while she walks tied to back of his oxcart, whores her out to men along their journey, rapes her and beats the crap out of her. This is not a “protagonist” I care about. Frankly, I’d like to see the girl (Sally) bludgeon him with a bit of firewood and feed him to his great hulking dog.

Probably along the way he’ll change and learn something about himself and blah blah blah. I’ll go so far as to admit there are points where he isn’t a total monster, but these parts are sullied as soon as I remember the episode a page earlier where he did something particularly brutal and disgusting.

It’s a risky choice, starting the book with such a viscerally horrifying character. How do you make your reader care what happens to him? Will Jeffrey Lent pull it off? I’m not sure yet. I don’t like to give up on books and I very rarely stop reading once I start, but Lost Nation is not thrilling me yet. Some very lovely writing (though I’d like to write the author a letter about his use of commas, or lack thereof), some great characterization and voice, but is it enough? I may end up reading this as more of a craft study than a book for enjoyment.

Maybe in the end it will come full circle and somehow affect my Thesis work. I’d like to think my characters are flawed but likeable, perhaps this will inspire me to write some real psychopathic doozies instead.


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