or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Sunday, March 25, 2007


I don't quite know what happened. I used to read fiction all the time. I'd go through phases: I read practically everything Ray Bradbury ever wrote when I was a kid, I went through this nearly inexplicable H.P. Lovecraft phase in 1984, I couldn't get enough Robertson Davies the year after that....

Part of it, I know, is that there's only so much time in the day to read, and a lot of my reading time is taken up with the Internet. That's not a bad thing, not at all, but it is kind of a shame.

I've read exactly two novels in the last year, and one of them was "The Ruins" by Scott Smith.* I still don't know what to think about it. It's compulsively readable, that's for sure, and it kind of haunts you. But is it any good? Not really, I suppose. It's essentially Stephen King's "The Raft", expanded from a short story into 320 pages. And it's nasty. And bleak. (Bleak isn't necessarily a bad thing: the Sarah Polley remake of "Dawn of the Dead" was bleak as hell, and it was still really good.) I'm not going to bother telling you about "The Ruins": it's been out for months and months, and you can read as much about it as you like online--that's the sort of thing the Internet exists for. (Here's a spoilery review at Slate, or, if you prefer, this one at The Onion is spoiler-free.)

It doesn't help that on page 299 of the hardcover version is this sentence:

He was hungry, exhausted, cold, and found it hard to believe that any of this would ever change.

No matter how you slice it, that's a big fat parallel-structure violation.** Would it have been that hard for Smith or his editor to have reconstructed the sentence? Tucked in another "and" before the word "cold" to make it all come out right?

* The other one was "The Shipping News", and while I don't love Annie Proulx's writing style, it was still so much better than the movie. Poor Judi Dench and Julianne Moore, trying to wrap their mouths around a Newfoundland accent!

**You could, of course, argue that he might have legitimately written "hungry, exhausted, cold" without the "and" as a stylistic choice, and I certainly would have allowed that. The trouble is that it's not the end of the sentence: it's followed by "and found...", which makes it look like a list of four adjectives with the expected conjunction, and then you have to mentally reorient yourself when you realize that it's a verb. That's just not good writing. It shouldn't have made it into print.


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