(I apologize in advance to Jeannie Ralston. A couple of times I’ve written snarky things about writers and they’ve found me through google alert or some other such mechanism, and I’ve felt pretty bad. I’m not a writer. What do I know? I only know I love what I love, and I hate what I hate and this is the place where I talk to myself.)
I’m in the mood to play bitch editor.
It struck this morning as I was reading Unlikely Lavender Queen (Jeannie Ralston). Ralston has also written for Life, Allure and the New York Times. She says so. Repeatedly. The scenario is she’s an awesome high profile magazine writer in New York. She marries an awesome National Geographic photographer from Texas. They move to Texas and she hates it. She becomes obsessed with having a baby. blah, blah.
She can’t get pregnant. They move out to the country in Texas and renovate an old stone barn. She hates it even more. There are scorpions and men who wear Stetson hats. She has to supervise the renovation because her husband travels. She gets pregnant. She realizes her shoes are no longer stylish. After she has the baby they hire a full time nanny who speaks Spanish, so that the child will be bilingual. blah, blah, blah.
She travels with her awesome husband to Provence, where he is on assignment. He becomes intoxicated with lavender and decides to try to grow it on their awesome not really a proper Texas ranch property. She dismisses all his ideas because she’s more awesome than he is and also she used to live in New York and eat in the Chelsea district. blah, blah. She gets pregnant again. He travels a lot and leaves her at home to fend off the scorpions herself. Her favorite restaurant that serves creme brulee closes.
She travels some more but it isn’t the same with a lively tot and squawling infant. She can’t sleep. She tries a some herbal remedies and some ambien. The whole world should stop and take notice because she has insomnia. She thinks she’s having a breakdown. Her Dr. thinks it’s post partum depression. (I think she should get her thyroid checked.) Her awesome husband continues with the lavender project.
I do think her husband sounds pretty awesome. Hot, even.
That’s how far I’ve gotten. I probably won’t get any farther because I just don’t like Ralston’s style of writing. It’s not her – it’s me.
Actually, maybe it is her. Aside from all her complaining there are loads of what I consider lousy similes. Here are a couple from just the first 2 pages of the prologue:
“Shapes were black and fuzzy, as if I were wearing someone else’s glasses.”
“I breathed in as I looked to the east, at a sliver of near-neon orange that was spreading out on the horizon like a just-split egg yolk.”
“The only noises besides my feet crunching on the driveway…were the doves cooing above the chirping crickets like the soft tones of an oboe laid over a chorus of violins.”
Ummm – what?
I know what an oboe sounds like because I’ve actually played one. I know what violins sound like because my daughter is a violinist. I know what crickets and doves sound like. Oboes sound nothing like doves, at least not the doves in any state I’ve ever lived in. Just because you put “like” in the middle doesn’t make it an effective simile.
Wait. Don’t leave yet. There’s more bad writing:
“Something deep and inexplicable had taken hold of me and wasn’t letting go.”
“I was now as afraid of the dark as a six year old who had been watching horror movies.”
Is it me or does that make you gag a little?
Then on page 135 the ultimate bad sentence. The sentence that left me with sweaty palms and stomach cramps (see I can write badly too): “My muscles ached deep within as if they’d extracted every drop of spare energy my sleep-deprived body could wring out.”
Oh the glory of it!
It’s so bad I’m going to repeat it “My muscles ached deep within as if they’d extracted every drop of spare energy my sleep-deprived body could wring out.”
It’s so bad it’s good. Where do I go from here? Actually to the library to dump this in the “no thank you I the last 135 pages of my life back” bin.
I’ve tucked a little post it note inside on page 135. It says “Dear future reader: This woman’s similes are like bitter coffee the morning after a drunken tryst with a second rate cruise ship singer. I didn’t have the strength to go on. Godspeed.”