Saturday, January 9

abandoned: Any Which Wall


by Laurel Snyder
Random House 2009

Scared away by a condescending narrative voice.


It's been a while since I abandoned a book outright, but I just couldn't keep plowing through. There have been books I wanted to ditch, and others I probably should have dumped, but I've always held out to the end with that hope that maybe something toward the end would redeem the effort. But Any Which Wall just didn't give me a reason to continue beyond the first chapter.

I might have made it through the second chapter had it not been for the prologue. Over the last couple of years I have come to regard the prologue as something akin to party appetizers made from leftovers and canned cheese, heated to a greasy sheen. In almost every case they did not need to be there, and I had sudden memory pangs of skipping over the "boring" matter at the front of books I read as a kid because I was eager to get to the story.

Worse, when the prologue took on that storyteller voice, that condescending tone of a disembodied narrator speaking directly to me from the great beyond, those books were always a sign of pending boredom. Do you have a story to tell me, or are you more interested in catching me in your thrall of your magnificent storytelling cadence? From the moment I could read independently I always had that feeling that the author or storyteller didn't trust me, the reader, to get the story on my own without their hand-holding. I didn't find it quaint, or comforting, or reassuring. I always heard it like the voice of the old lady who never had kids of her own and kept trying to feed me stale, dusty ribbon candy.

And that's what Any Which Wall felt like to me. I could see what Snyder was going for, but it's just not for me. There's probably a great story in there somewhere, and some kids are really going to love this (I'm guessing they're all girls - I'd be curious to interview the boy who voluntarily read and liked this book), but for the swell of positive reviews I gleaned all I can say is that this must have hit a soft, nostalgic spot for some adults and they responded accordingly.
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