Friday, August 24, 2012

The End of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas (and a little about the ways and whys of how I review books)

I've been waiting to read this novel for years. A copy finally came my way via a BookCrossing RABCK, for which I am sincerely grateful. I brought it with me on a trip to our mountain cabin, where I knew I could read it uninterrupted . And I did-- except for the interruptions I fell into all on my own, many having to do with frustration of plot and pace.

A book about a book -- with bits of that missing book, which is said to carry the curse of death for anyone who reads "The End of Mr Y" (which is the title of the cursed book in the story) surely should be as fascinating as the recursiveness of it's title. But I'm alive and well, and, though I hate to say it, less than enthralled. It's not that the writing or plot was bad, for it wasn't exactly. Scarlett Thomas manages to mix a bit of philosophy, science, spirituality, time travel, lust, and even homeopathy together, but the potency, for me was not diluted enough, coming out weak (a bit of homeopathic humor there-- the more dilute a homeopathic remedy is, the stronger it's said to be.) I just didn't find myself engaged enough in any of the story (both the present day or the book within a book) to care about the outcome. The pace did puck up toward the end, scurrying to an abrupt end, leaving me feeling vaguely dissatisfied, as if I had skim read a hunk of the book and jumped to the end to find out what happened.

Whenever I read a book that leaves me feeling lukewarm, and then write a review that reflects that, I feel a little guilty. After all, though I have written a number of things, manuscripts included, I've yet to have more than professional journal articles/ textbook chapters (and some news/magazine articles of a lighter nature) published. Who am I to criticize? My reviews tend to be more about how I reacted to a book, or what I found myself thinking about while reading. (After all, I figure any idiot can read a publisher blurb on a book. I don't need to do a book report -- just what I thought.) The bottom line is, I'm a reader, one of those illusive fish authors set their hooks for, hoping to catch. In this case, I nibbled the bait, but did not take the hook. Maybe Scarlett Thomas will catch me next time she goes fishing. Until then, I'll just keep swimming.

2.5 stars, rounded up because of some of the details used and the fact that I really liked the mouse god, Apollo Smintheus. Ithink everyone should be able to play that card at least once in a lifetime. Hooray for Hav-a-heart traps.

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