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.


Ms. Yingling said...

I enjoyed reading your blog, because you have read a lot of the same things that I liked. While we often disagree on the general "thumbs up/thumbs down" of books, I definitely see your point on things like Candor. Books can catch us or not-- I'm still not sure why I loved Any Which Wall, but I did.

Colleen said...

I wonder if it was a girl thing for me...can't possibly answer that though. The book did seem very familiar though and that was part of the appeal and the prologue didn't put me off but that could be due to the old fashioned feel of the whole thing. I'm curious though - did you like The Penderwicks? Because this one seemed to be a lot like it (plus the magic wall of course!)

david elzey said...

an, the penderwicks. that's interesting, because i started that and early on put it down and just now realized i'd sort of forgotten about it. maybe i need to explore this connection and see if there isn't something i can pinpoint about these books, something deep in my history, that puts that distance between me and a certain style of storytelling.

Broche Fabian said...

Just discovered your blog by googling "I Like You" by Sandol Stoddard Warburg, and am enjoying reading your other posts. I also didn't like Any Which Wall, and feel similarly about prologues, though I'm struggling with the urge to write one right now. I'm in the Simmons College MFA program, so hello colleague. :) I loved The Penderwicks, and that was even before I met the author who is delightfully not at all what you'd expect. Highly recommend picking it up again.