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April 16, 2008

Village Voice Reviews Me (Yawn); I Review the Village Voice's James Wolcott

Ray Midge informs me that the Village Voice, which must really be hurting for sales, has once again attempted to drive up online traffic by insulting right-wing bloggers. Eight (I think) blogs are rated according to "Stupid/Evil" ratio, and I am proud to say that this blog has been rated the least evil of the conservative blogs examined.

Mostly because of the 99:1 Stupid:Evil ratio. Which I guess this means this is the most moronic blog of all major blogs, which, quite frankly, isn't so much an insult as "brand identity."

Anyway, as the Village Voice has been so kind as to review me, I figured I'd repost a review of James Wolcott's egregiously vile chick-lit novel The Catsitters.

...

Reviewing George Galloway, friend of dictators, inciter of assassination attempts on Tony Blair, James Wolcott enthused: "a hero for out time."

Reviewing deadly hurricane, James Wolcott gushed: "I root for hurricanes. When, courtesy of the Weather Channel, I see one forming in the ocean off the coast of Africa, I find myself longing for it to become big and strong--Mother Nature's fist of fury, Gaia's stern rebuke. Considering the havoc mankind has wreaked upon nature with deforesting, stripmining, and the destruction of animal habitat, it only seems fair that nature get some of its own back and teach us that there are forces greater than our own."

In fairness, some critics have noted that Wolcott's retard-novel The Catsitters was, in fact, an attempt to convey the full horror and human misery of a Category 5 hurricane in prose, and, viewed in those terms, was an unqualified success. "Ther are indeed forces greater than our own," one reviewer wrote, "and among the greatest and most fearsome is James Wolcott's awful writing. Every page of his novel is a heartbreaking glimpse of the wreckage left by 100 mph drivel and twenty-foot high cresting cliches."

Let me review as much of this book as I can... which as it turns out is just the first page, because the book has long since been mulched and turned into other, better books.


They always told me that the first page of the book was the most important. The first page of your book has to be your best page. It's the one page everyone who picks up your book reads. The decision whether to buy or keep reading is made on that first page.

So this is Wolcott's best stuff. This is his most polished, most evocative writing.

You be the judge.

It's like one of those Dungeons & Dragons "Choose Your Path To Adventure!" books.

Based on this beginning, do you continue reading? If so, turn to page 2. If you choose to flee, instead return it to the bargain bin you got it from.

AT FIRST I THOUGHT IT WAS A HUMAN CRY. As the elevator door stuttered open at my floor, I heard a baby wailing behind a neighbor's door, like a tiny captive. Then I realized the sound was coming from inside my apartment, growing louder and more plaintive the closer I got. I set my travel bag down on th faded patch of carpet where the welcome mat used to be before it got stolen. When I unlocked the door, she was sitting waiting for me, her gren cat eyes glaring and her ears cocked. Holding the pose just long enough to maker her point, Slinky returned her ears to their normal upright position and padded toward me, uttering a cry that expressed confusion, distress, and annoyance all at once. Where have you been? She had always been a vocal animal, but this was a note of rebuke I hadn't heard before, backed up with an impressive amount of body language for such a small animal. She paused at my feet, hunching her shoulders and looking up at me as if to lodge a formal compaint.

"I missed you, too," I said, bending to pet her. She ducked under my hand after a couple of head rubs and turned tail, heading for the kitchen. I followed, wanting to see how she had done on her breakfast.

Slink's water bowl was dry, which was nothing unusual. She often expressed her displesure when I was absent for a few days by smaing its rim with her paw, knocking it over and spilling water everywhere. I had learned to take the precaution of placing a pan in the sink...

WOW!!! I can't wait to read what happens next!

Okay, seriously? Let's put aside the fact this guy's a dick and assess this. The man is simply an inept writer. In an effort to "write vividly," the jackass sprays useless detail around as indiscriminately as a dog pissing on bushes. Good writers don't write details; they write telling details. They offer details that suggest other details (which they don't then have to bother writing) or which establish a mood or such.

He's taking the "show don't tell" thing too far. Yes, show, don't tell. Unless what you're describing is basically boring pap. In which case, just tell, and spare your reader the unnecessary verbiage. Show, Don't Tell may be Rule 1, but there is a Rule Zero:

Don't try your reader's patience with fucking nonsense.

What point is there in telling us the elevator door "stutters" open? Or that there is a "faded patch" of carpet, where the welcome mat used to be, "before it got stolen"? If he's trying to convey here a downscale sort of apartment complex, I've got to say, he's not really describing squalor. He's describing a rather average sort of place, with little problems here or there. It's ordinary, in other words. Why not just say so?

"Like a tiny captive"? This similie suggests, what? What does a "tiny captive" sound like, precisely? What is a tiny captive, actually? Like a, what, imprisoned pixie? I don't know.

It's an empty similie. It doesn't express anything at all about the sound he hears, because he doesn't link the sound to anything recognizable. A similie should add to a reader's impression of the thing described, not just take up words. This similie is clumsy and meaningless, like a water buffalo trying to purchase gold stereo cable at a Radio Shack using an expired coupon.

And the description of the cat. How much can this cat express with one yowl? By turns it's "plaintive" or shows "confusion" or "distress" or "annoyance," and also asks a question, Where have you been?, and further contains a "note of rebuke." Later, "body language" suggests a "formal compaint."

The reader is buried under a blizzard of tastelessly indiscriminate adjectives, like a flamboyant anaconda playing croquet during a thunderstorm.

And the bigger problem is that what he's describing is just not all that unusual for a cat. It's like going on for a page about your dog being excited when he hears the fucking can-opener. Well, that's what a dog does, you know. There's hardly any need to go describing this as some sort of amazing-super dog behavior worthy of such detail. It's like a doctor of etymology ducking behind the porno-curtains at his local video store.

And on and on. He pets the cat. He makes sure to tell us he's "bending" to pet it; an important detail, because we wouldn't want to think this was some sort of mutant gargantuan enormo-cat, standing six foot high at the shoulder, requiring no bending at all.

I don't think there was a single detail there that was evocative, interesting, arresting, or anything except flat-out pedestrian, boring, and amateurish.

But there were a lot of those details, a lot of useless adjectives and nouns amounting to absolutely nothing at all. It's both overwritten and underwritten at the same time. Which, I guess, is what happens when you really have no frigging idea of what you're doing, like a rambunctious testicle conspirning a mutiny against the leadership of the genital sloop.

I've read an entire page to learn: a man returns home to an ordinary apartment and finds his cat waiting for him. And then he pets it.

And this dick presumes to critique others?

All in all, it's like a sexually-frustrated sasquatch making snow-cones with a water-ski.


(Link fixed. — Pixy)

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posted by Ace at 01:23 AM

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