Thursday, 28 November 2013

The Maid's Version by Daniel Woodrell

She frightened me at every dawn the summer I stayed with her.

Another story that subscribes to the begin with a pronoun philosophy, in which characters hide behind a veil of grammatical ambiguity. Twelve words with four pronouns. Tut-tut. The whole first page is one paragraph, but it needn't be, even though it is mostly about her hair. Whose? No idea. We can identify her only as the long-haired person. Her hair is apparently as long as her story and her hair ...dragged the floor.... That I would love to see in a movie.

Despite this lack of clarity, a conflict manages to suggest itself, but don't worry, it's easy to ignore: Someone is frightening someone for some unspecified reason.

The next two pages are one long paragraph crammed full with a collage of ideas, and then it dawns on me. This is artsy-fartsy literature, a genre in which plots are successfully buried in epic back stories, verbose description, poetry, and figurative entanglements moving at the digestive pace of a sloth.

At least we learn "her" name - Alma. Though by not using a name in sentence one, the opening line looks unnecessarily melodramatic. Nevertheless by a couple pages in, the author successfully switches from the pronoun to the proper noun effortlessly and actual people, not hes and shes and mes, start to populate the pages.

First thing said besides things that characters used to say all the time:

"Tell it."

And boy, does this narrator tell.

Verdict: Fail

Rudy Globird

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