Monday, December 3, 2012

King, Commoners and English Majors

It seems like easy pickin's.

You want to write a good book? One with tried and true drama? Steal your story from somebody else, somebody who won't care. Say, Homer, who wrote that Iliad thing a few years back.

This is what David Malouf attempted in Ransom. Myself, I never got the Greeks. If they had a bad day, they felt honor-bound to gouge out an eye or two. So I had a hard time warming up to Ransom's formal and honor-bound Priam and Achilles and the rest. That is, until King Priam's puzzling quest brings a humble cart-driver into the story. Then the story comes alive for me as king and commoner (with an endearing habit of rubbing his nose) come together, sizing each other up. The cart-driver nudges the King into his world, inviting him to partake of pleasures as simple as cooling his toes in a stream.

It's a middling OK story, no cow patties.

Next up, we have Working Stiff's Manifesto by Iain Levison. Levison spent $40,000 getting a degree in English, and now he can't find a job. Resorting to the lowest and dirtiest work in the land, he scrapes together a living by boarding a fishing boat in Alaska and answering ads that herd the unsuspecting into multi-level marketing schemes. Meanwhile, he tells tales on his roommate, who aims to break into film-making. If Levison's book weren't so funny, it would be depressing as all get-out.

Makes me glad to be a housewife, whose hardest job is planning what to feed the crowd that came to my house Thanksgiving week. There was pumpkin pie, of course, but we had to have other pies, too, for novelty's sake. So we added Chocolate Mallow Pie to the menu. Basically, it was several kinds of candy/sweet stuff thrown together, as if the inventor couldn't decide between his/her vices.

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