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April 23, 2012

I was wandering through Barnes and Noble last week, looking at book jackets and killing time until the fine ladies of Ulta would unlock their door. An offer not to be taken lightly: twenty percent off your entire order.

So, I was wandering around looking at the pictures on the books. Note that I was not reading the blurbs. I no longer, under any circumstance, read blurbs. I am totally and completely anti-blurb. If I’m going to be marketed into reading something that is mediocre, I (at the very least) demand that the image to embellish the pages be to my liking.

I came across a lovely cover a few tables in, a muted sepia beauty with a satin finish of a female standing between two chic chairs, one hand resting on top of each. She wore a black sweater and a pleated white skirt; her legs were shadowy and firm, hair short. Her gaze appeared to be set on a faint blue sky outside a set of architecturally nice, yet subtle white doors and past a wrought iron balcony rail.

The title of the book was written in white across her back: the forgotten waltz. No capital letters. I like it. Beneath her hem: Anne Enright, author of The Gathering, Winner of the Man Booker Prize.

I didn’t pick it up because of the prize (even though the recent Pulitzer debacle and last year’s Booker controversy did ring my radar). I didn’t pick it up because I recognized the author’s name or because I have read The Gathering. I picked it up because it had style.

On the first page I learn that the forgotten waltz is the story of an affair between the narrator and a man. A man with a child.

The child, Evie, sees them kiss. Evie’s mother calls her downstairs. She giggles.

There is absolutely nothing in that scene that makes me want to read this book. And yet …

I race home and purchase it on my Kindle.

I am, maybe, a couple hundred pages in. I’m not sure. That, specifically, is irrelevant because what surprises me is that I am still reading at all.

I’ve been wandering through books for months, downloading sample chapters and even purchasing a few only to turn up my nose and abandon them mid-work. In six months, I have read only three novels (cover-to-cover).  <insert “shame” emoticon>

I don’t particularly care for any of the characters in the forgotten waltz. It has practically no plot whatsoever. In fact, I find the main character annoying as hell.


It has style.

The narrative is quiet. It’s most sincere even though the information at hand is centered on dishonesty. It reads like a conversation over a table scattered with half-eaten amuse-bouche and empty wine bottles. I don’t like Gina at all, but I often feel her lean in towards me, almost touching my hands that are clasped above my plate, and whisper this or that important sounding detail. I sit up a little, but then there’s clinking from her bracelets as she shows me her shiny palm and says something like “but I’m not going to tell you that part right now” and continues rambling about her hairy Irish husband.

She is shallow and materialistic and sometimes, for lack of a better word, dumb and not at all like I imagine the striking woman standing between the two lovely chairs staring out at the blue nothing.


There is something compelling about the way she tells her story. She is unapologetic. She is honest to a fault. She doesn’t try to conceal a thing from the reader. Hate me. I don’t care, I know she’s saying under her breath, and I want to, and yet …

6 Comments leave one →
  1. adobesoup permalink
    April 23, 2012 9:17 am

    i get the magnet of style, am often (maybe even always) pulled to it. to turn it on its head, would i read a book that has an incredible story or characters but its writing has no style? no, and that’s why we read the first sentences, isn’t it? you have it, ann, a style, an ability to put words down in an engaging, recognizable, magnetic way – like your third paragraph, the one that describes the cover, and very especially “two chic chairs.”

    • April 23, 2012 10:10 am

      You are too kind. I most often think of my style as schizophrenic with a splash of ADD. And the chairs are fabulous, but the skirt ….

      I think this is the first time I’ve found *the word* for what I’m really looking for in a novel.

  2. imagineannie permalink
    April 23, 2012 10:15 am

    I totally get this, to the point where it’s scary. Although if I’m really honest, I’d have to ad that I avoid blurbs because they all make me think that all other novels are better than anything I could ever come up with. Oh, and I am reading novels, but I have degenerated into reading pulpy sci fi crap about witches because I am escaping reality………………

    • April 23, 2012 10:46 am

      I am all for escaping reality. Unfortunately, my bitchi-self just won’t stfu no matter which path I take. Perhaps witches would put her in her place. As for the blurb, it is the moonshine of literature, an impure distillation with enough cultural significance to convince you to partake of the contents. I’ll pass.

    • April 23, 2012 10:48 am

      Unless it’s real mooonshine. That’s another story.

  3. Owl Says Who permalink
    April 24, 2012 9:21 am

    I’m with you about style… I love a book (or a post, like this one) that makes me revel in the language. I’ll read it even when I don’t particularly like the characters, or the plot direction. I agree with Candace, too…one of the things I love about your work is the sheer style of it…of course, I also enjoy your subjects, thoughts, musings, and stories…

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