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SkinnyDippingIntoBooks

Skinny Dipping Into Books

I like the rain. I want to have a spring bookworming rain party full out with wellies—but not those Hunter Boots; absolutely not—, with yummy airy things like puffed pastries, meringues, mini fluffy cheese cakes, mousse dessert, macaroon, biscuits, crepe, and Earl Grey tea, definitely Earl Grey tea.  and Tillandsia. We'd have lots of "air plants". Lots! And We'd read, but not anything structured. We'd bring books, trade books, read out-loud, pass books around between sentences and paragraphs. We'd leave with books we hadn't discovered.

 

I like books like I like my Jazz; euphoric, dangerous, occasionally a bit manic, sorrowful, bleak, raging, mood-incongruent, mournful, unforgivingly ragged, symbolic in a quiet way, warm apple pie for the soul. Give me a Plath style. Yōko Ogawa, M. Roach,


Criteria: Not rated on likability of characters. Not objective. I like Moxie Soda; chances are you don't.


time spent in that before bed reading slot:

5-until blurry eye 4-Later than I intended, but I still kept to my extended, extended reading time 3-I really should have been to bed an hour ago  2-customary 30 minutes. 1-book. side table. eyes closed.


How are common themes handled?

5-With an aesthetic that repurposes everyday themes into something fresh. Think of Hole Celebrity Skin covered by Cat Power  4-there is a comfortable air of familiarly.
3-Deja Vu 2. No deviation from its mates  1. Devastatingly trite, redundant, and stale.

Where would you keep it post-reading?

5-Next to my bed.  4-it's the center piece of my favorite bookshelf 3. On my other favorite bookshelf, but it's a bit dusty over their 2-Great cheap bookends 1-It never made it out of the box marked 'moving'.


Emotional response-

5- Where is my teddy bear? Emotional-hangover 4- If I wasn't so emotionally stunted I'd cry.
3. Did James Cameron co-wrote this? Artfully contrived. 
2- calculative emotional manipulation. This was literally written by James Cameron.1- I…feel…..nothing.

Mechanics (plot structure, voice, presentation, word choice, sentence structure, characters, writing style, pacing, and consistency):

5-Chanel 4-Prada 3-J-Crew 2-Gap 1-Old Navy

Currently reading

The Complete Stories
Flannery O'Connor
I am No One You Know
Joyce Carol Oates
Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls
Alissa Nutting, Alissa Nutting

ugh... delfated baloon, run over by car

Something Like Autumn - Jay Bell

  And you're turned up to top volume
And you're just sitting there in pause
With your feral little secret
Scratching at you with its claws
And you're trying hard to figure out
Just exactly how you feel
Before you end up parked and sobbing
Forehead on the steering wheel
[…]
How many times undone can one person be
As they're careening through the facade
Of their favorite fantasy you just close your eyes slowly
Like you're waiting for a kiss and hope some lowly little power will pull you out of this- Ani Difranco





The dilemma, at least for me when reviewing this book is whether or not to compare it to its big brother and big sister. Ultimately I concluded that it would be irresponsible to try to capture this book without a backdrop of what preceded it. Unfortunately, adopting this mode of analysis weighed heavily against my overall review.

The first novel was like Nestle Chocolate Cookie dough directly from the tube. The second was like turning your pillow over to get the cold side. Something Like Autumn… well… trying to find the cold side of the pillow during summer and struggling with cookie crumbs in your bed… or something uncomfortable like that.

It’s all Ben’s fault. I finally realized I love Ben. No that isn't enough; he is my sun to my moon or whatever that Game of Thrones phrase is. I also concluded that it was Ben who carried me forward through the first two novels. This is obvious, as this is ultimately his story, viewed from different vantage points. So Ben, blames on you, Mr. Adorableness.

Something Like Autumn was carved out of the same storyline that guided the previous two, except with changes to casting and different location scouting. So, if you envision a box, containing a stripped down version of all three books you’d have:

2/3 ish… Teenagers looking for more in life. Everyone is good looking and has a sizable member. Everyone…. is good-looking. Teenager has a flavorful sister. Kind and understanding parents coddle teenager. Teenager reflects on need for concrete foundation of love most often only found in adulthood after all those pesky learning experiences. Sage advice mingles about. Teenager finds someone. Sex. That someone turns out to be a difficult fit into teenager’s life. Teenager doesn’t figure out right off. Repeat times a billion theories that love for another is boundless, ever growing, and never ceasing. Advice comes forth. Teenager struggles. Crushing emotional blows. Teenager looks to the wide-open world, eyes coasters.

Adults looking for more in life. Adultish people fumbling along the way, and having the prerequisite torturous, but confusing relationship(s), and oh, of course, pocket that experience for later.  More sex. Emotional baggage is unloaded, reloaded, unloaded, reloaded……repeat....

And then BEN! And BEN AND BEN!

Introducing…. Tim.

Last ¼…ish… Struggle with concept that love is never-ending and as a result stupid fucking choices. Lots of sex. More stupid choices. Embed idea that sexuality is fluid, reflecting the whole ‘we don’t live in a vacuum perspective’. Resolve that inner turmoil. Then, you know, that part.

Sound familiar? Right….

See, here is the deal. This series is kinda like getting your favorite dish, say, Pad Thai at three different restaurants.  The first restaurant has a solid traditional, comfort food-esque Pad Thai. The second one repurposed into an amazingly original fried concoction. The third, well you are in Italy, and well….

I have various issues with this book.

Firstly, it failed to exhibit originality, which, after two other books relying on the same themes and plot, was beyond necessary. I already covered this disappointment above.

Secondly, to a large extent it focused exclusively on Jace’s past, which is fine, but it was explored to a torturous degree.  Something Like Summer, with its concise, careful style was beautiful, haunting, original, and daring. Summer was able to fit within a very small number of pages, an intimate and delicate weaving of tragedy, hope, and frailty. As the series continued the page length increased, almost doubling, and with it the emotional punch was weakened—though, if anything, I WISH Summer was longer, cause, duh BEN! Since Summer/Winter were presented as complementary pieces, the length had less of an influence on the books substance, delivery, and success, compared with Autumn. Even though Summer, Winter, and Autumn shared similarities in terms of structure and themes, Autumn was tethered at a distance (Think the movie Gravity). Without the delicate and even weave holding Summer/Winter together, Autumn was emotionally stunted, and stumbled beneath the overwhelming shadow cast downward by its brother and sister. The distance between Autumn and Summer/Winter required Autumn to branch out on its own, with unique individual experiences. Unfortunately, other than repurposing the plot structure of the previous books and occasional new events, Summer didn’t find its individuality. Rather than exploring the events from a new, refreshing perspective, the tactic of writing repetitive themes appeared to be swift strokes of a brush.

Which brings me to my third issue. The novel was emotionally dry. Presumably it is fairly difficult to explore the same themes in three separate books, specifically when we all know what happened to Jace. The most difficult thing here is maintaining familiarity, while altering the vantage point ever so softly. Unfortunately, redundancy abounds, and the same themes repeated from the earlier books became stale. Implementing new events, and embellishing on older ones brought brief relief, however they were few and far between. Introducing Jace’s interpretation of events post ‘incident’ was refreshing, and tore at the emotional threads sustained by reliving the event three times. However, the key potential of this novel was exploring Jace’s subjective orientation to the ‘event’, yet the impact was a whisper rather than a scream. The levees should have cracked and breeched, but earlier events were the focal point, and there were only moments left to offer a sampling of Jace’s experience. I also expected a greater level of focus on Paris. There was lots of emotional fragility and personal turbulence left unexplored.
 
Finally Jace, the man of the hour. Nothingness. Redundant elements and there effect on the overall story as well as emotional content provided a sketch of Jace. Jace remained the sweet, understanding, and perhaps naïve person we encountered in Summer/Winter. Sure there was the brief emotional exploration not found in the other two books, but it was fleeting. Even though we discovered substantial knowledge of his past, the array of emotions was limited. Character development constipation……Static.

The thread of acceptance of adults in these individuals’ lives was unrealistic. Jace’s life was brimming with adults that offered advice, strength, and resilience. Sisters, uncles, aunts, moms, dads and friends adjusted swiftly and without pause to non-typical sexual identities and relationships. Yes, there were rifts and confrontation, but the majority of these originated from an angry, self-centered sister. We also had the expected relationship disharmony, and maybe if this area was amplified to a larger degree, Jace’s character would feel less two-dimensional.


 Look, it’s a good book, and I am being tremendously hard on it. You have to understand, though, that Summer/Winter were exceptional examples of a skilled author exploring the deep terrain of homosexuality, self-identity, and hardships inherent to the task of maintaining self-agency while allowing yourself to love. In the end, while it doesn’t shine as bright as the others, it is part of the series and SHOULD be read.

It's not you. It's me. Here is a puppy.

Anndddddd…. The Project Runway vote…