Monday, 7 July 2014

The Accident by Chris Pavone


He awakens suddenly, in terror.

A pronoun waking up in terror has been done to death as an opening in books, short stories, films, TV shows, commercials, poems, raps, banner ads, eulogies and gossip, etc. Obviously, however, some people haven't gotten the memo. As there is little in this line to interest the well read, let's read on at least to the end of the first paragraph and see what happens with Mr. Pronoun.

He spins his head around the spare room, searching the darkest shadows in the blue wash of moonlight, sitting bolt upright, head cocked, alert for noises. He reaches his hand across his body, and grabs the gun.

Yikes. He spins his head around the room? Who is this guy, the love child of Wile E. Coyote and Regan from The Exorcist? And of course, he reaches for "the" gun, which is even more predictable than a tough, hunkly (did I just make that word up?) pronoun waking up. It's also a little awkward that as Manly Pronoun spins his head around the room, he is searching the darkest shadows while in the process of sitting upright - that is, all at the same time. Present participle forms of the verb are used to show those verbs are occurring at the same time as other verbs like spin. Example: He walks down the street and goes into the store. Happening at the same time? Nope. What about:  He walks down the street, going into the store. Happening at the same time? Yes, with the aid of the multi-moment phasing app now available for download from Google Play.

I would have the pronoun bolt upright first and then spin his head around the room, searching for whatever...

As well, it sounds strange that "reach" is used transitively, that is, with an object (hand): He reaches his hand across his body. Why is Mr. Pronoun's hand the object of the verb reaching which his hand is doing? Hm? In my neck of the English woods, "reach" is used intransitively (without an object): His hand reaches across his body... Of course, that's not to say "reach" never has an object, as in traveling: I reached the shore. A quick Google search shows that this He reaches his hand... phrasing has been used before: He reached his hand down. Not many search results though,  so it's a construction with only a small cult following. I still think it sounds weird, but I might use it.

Aegis: Can you reach that book for me?
Superman: Sure I will reach my hand to that book, because I like reaching my hands.

I guess this opening paragraph feels like writing. With the next paragraph we learn that that first paragraph was a false alarm! In other words, it's a clumsy way of foreshadowing that there is a problem, which is, put quite simply, not where it should be: in the first paragraph. This technique dangerously borders on the "ha-ha made you look" trick that I hate. You know, the openings that begin with an exciting dream or film scene on TV that the character is watching and the scene has nothing to do with the actual story.

The prologue is short, but out of the 13 paragraphs, 8 start with pronouns. Later we learn that Mr. Pronoun is a writer and he's written a memoir and that an earlier draft was in first person but in the final draft he'd changed it to third person and was obsessing whether he'd caught all the first person references - not really fascinating. His epilogue ends:

...if what you are reading is a finished book...I am...dead.

Chapter 1:

It is just before dawn when Isabel Reed turns the final sheet of paper.

We assume that this is Mr. Pronoun's book in the prologue and that Mr. Pronoun is dead. Honestly, I don't care if I'm wrong and I don't have much interest in finding out one way or the other.

First thing said:

"My God."


Verdict: Fail

Rudy Globird

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