September 27th, 2005

pod

Weekend at Jennie's

I went to David's memorial on Saturday, Jenny by my side playing the role of the faithful girlfriend while dressed like a lesbian gym teacher, Bill Belichick, or both. The event was held in a Quaker Meetinghouse, which is sort of like a church except that all the pews are arranged to look towards the center and Jesus doesn't hang around on various crosses reminding you that you and you alone are responsible for his agonizing death.

It was a fairly typical memorial with people rising to speak about the deceased in reverential tones with absolutely no mention of his flaws, like how he kept the toilet seat up or how he always took the crumb-topped doughnut even when he knew they were your favorite. The first woman stood up and spoke about how good David was at editing interoffice memos, which, if it were my memorial, would not exactly be the first thing I'd want said about me. If after you're dead the first thing someone thinks about you is "Damn, the world has lost a really good spellchecker" then perhaps, my friend, you should have done more with your life.

Of course David did do more and later speakers were a little more personal (Samples included "David truly cared about justice" "David was a faithful friend" and "David gave me the best orgasm of my life and I'm not afraid to say it anymore" from a zealous young man who, as it turns out, had the wrong memorial service.) Much of the time I spent wondering whether I should get up and say something, since I had a few comments worth making but we had not been especially close over the past few years. In the end I decided to speak, and about an hour and 15 minutes after the thing started I stood up, said my piece, and sat down again, at which point the memorial ended immediately, and everyone got ready to leave. It is, of course, the natural course of events in my life that I will end up having the last word when I want it least, and of course I immediately wanted nothing more to vanish from that place and not be called out as an usurper for a position that should have gone to someone closer to him. As my actual luck would have it the father of an old classmate of mine spotted me and stopped for a nice little chat, even as my instincts urged me to bolt for the door. I probably could have gotten away, his large beard would have created a lot of air resistance had he tried to pursue me, but it would have made meeting in the neighborhood significantly more awkward, so I stayed until a crack in the conversation allowed me to make good my escape. So as to avoid losing Jennifer in the seething crowd of mourners I grabbed her by the hand and we made our getaway successfully.

It wasn't until Times Square that I actually did lose her, on the way to her parents house, when someone cut in between us as I entered the train. Needless to say we did not manage to reconnect until we reached Flushing, and, if you know her, needless to say she was pissed. I don't want to say that she overreacted, but I will say this. Getting shot with a crossbow hurts. A lot.

When we finally reached her house she wouldn't let me in. Finally I was allowed in, but was informed that if I wanted to do her a favor I would die right there on the spot. I ended up staying the night instead (faking dead) and when I went to the bathroom in the morning her mother mistook water dripped from freshly washed hands for urine all over the bathroom, so I got kicked out again.

All in all a really great weekend. If you like those sorts of things. Which I really don't.
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pod

Davey did a bad bad bad bad bad bad thing

David Baldacci's "Hour Game" is a book. It consists of a bunch of paper with black markings on it bound together in a card-stock cover and with a color photograph of David Baldacci on the back. On every page of David Baldacci's "Hour Game" is printed either "David Baldacci" if it's an even numbered page, or "Hour Game" if it's odd numbered. This holds true except in the case of pages that mark the beginning of a new chapter.

That's about the best that can be said for David Baldacci's "Hour Game." It's all downhill from there. I bought this book not because it particularly appealed to me, but because I was going to take a train ride back home from Flushing (Which is located in Queens and apparently, judging by the distance, abuts Mongolia) and I needed something to read. I hadn't brought a book because my route had included a stop at a memorial service, and it always seems rude to bring reading material to a wake. "Yeah yeah, he was a great guy, blah blah, fascinating, where's the cake. Isn't there going to be cake? Oh well, I'll just read." There are only two kinds of books in Flushing. Chinese books, and bad books. I got one of the latter. It turned out to be the wrong decision.

David Baldacci's "Hour Game" opens with a bad sentence. "The man in the rain slicker walked slightly bent over, his breathing labored and his body sweaty." There's nothing good about this sentence. It isn't interesting, it doesn't tell you much of anything except that there's a man in a rain slicker who needs deodorant, and it contains the awkward phrasing "Walked slightly bent over." It might be a memorable sentence, for its badness, were there not dozens more to choose from in the Baldacci repertoire. For example the third sentence of the book is "It was never an easy thing to tote a dead body through the woods in the middle of the night." In addition to being a classic example of telling rather than showing (Now we know he's toting a dead body. If your goal is to horrify us with suspense at what he's doing...you fail.) it's also patently false. There are numerous scenarios in which it would be easy to tote a dead body through the woods in the middle of the night. If it were the body of an infant, for example. In addition since the main problem seems to be that the body is heavy, the time of day has absolutely nothing to do with it. This sentence tells us the time of day in an awkward and uninteresting way. Bad work Baldacci. Bad work.

The book continues on like this for roughly however many pages I managed to read, which was not that many. On the same page we are told "The soles of his shoes bore no distinguishing marks; not that it would have mattered, since the rain quickly washed away any traces of footprints." Why do we need to know about the soles of his shoes? I'm not sure. Perhaps it's to 'show' us that he's careful about not leaving any distinguishing marks, but if that's the case then he's just being redundant since the book lets us know that he's there precisely because it's raining. His redundancy does not appear to be an interesting character trait. It's just kind of random.

The problem with all this is that it's crap and it's popular. I have nothing against pulpy novels, Robert B. Parker's Spenser series is a guilty pleasure rather short on the guilt. I do, however, have a problem with shitty novels. Parker's books are fast paced and fun, but he also has an interesting way with language. The sentences are short, sparse, staccato. Each word has relevance. If the books were people then Parker's novels would have 5% body fat, while David Baldacci's would be like...well...me.

I could go on and on about the problems with Baldacci. About the fact that characters think things that nobody would ever think purely so the reader can have exposition. About the bad dialogue and the weird attempts at humor that you can never quite be sure are wry jokes and not just bad writing. About the seemingly random italics and quotation marks. I won't.

Instead I'll just ask everyone reading this journal not to read books by the Baldaccis of the world. They make the act of reading that our society so prizes (at least in theory) so pointless that you might as well watch TV. And not good TV either. "How I Met Your Mother" TV. The rule should be that in order to be a rich and famous writer you should have to be able to write at a level above the average high school junior. Baldacci fails that test.