September 15, 2004

You're Fired!

As a matter of general principle, once I start reading a book I try to see it through to the end, even if it turns out not to be all that great.

Well, my friends, after days of struggling with it, I've determined that James Fenimore Cooper's The Wing and Wing is one of those books that does not deserve this courtesy. I happen to be of Scots Presbyterian ancestry, so I am resigned to the idea that Mankind is doomed to soofer in this life, but Hoots and Toots, Mon! The thing can go too far, ye ken?

Of all the pompous, self-satisfied, long-winded bloviators I've come across, Cooper easily makes the varsity. Sixty pages in and he's still futzing around with the opening scene and setting up his plot. And this in what is supposed to be an adventure story, fer cryin' out loud. After having dozed off reading W & W on the Metro for the third day in a row yesterday, I decided it was high time to yank him from the line-up.

So who gets the coveted Metro-book spot in his place? Ha! Someone who knew how to write a gripping story. Someone who knew how to say in five words what it took Cooper fifty to say even though English wasn't his native language. And furthermore, someone who had something worthwhile to say about the human condition instead of swanking around over his own goddam ego and erudition. I refer to none other than Joseph Conrad. I've read several of his books, most recently The Secret Agent, but I've never read Lord Jim . Seeing that I wanted to keep to a sea-going theme, this seemed like the perfect opportunity. So Conrad's Lord Jim it is.

Posted by Robert at September 15, 2004 08:24 AM | TrackBack

I, too, gave up on Cooper many years ago. I began with a thirst for a "real" adventure story (Indians, explorers, frontiersmen, etc.) and found I was in the middle of a dull, presbyterian sermon. FYI, Lord Jim was one of my favorite novels, along with The Nigger Of The Narcissis. In "Jim", there is one of the most hilarious bits of prose I ever read consisting of a description of a fat German getting into(or out of) some conveyance. You will enjoy.

Posted by: O.F. at September 15, 2004 09:25 AM

Mark Twain wasn't a fan, either, it seems.

Posted by: Ed Flinn at September 15, 2004 09:44 AM

Let me add my weighty academic analysis:

Cooper sucks.

Posted by: Steve the Llamabutcher at September 15, 2004 12:51 PM

I don't think I've read Cooper at all, so I can't comment on his deficiencies. Up until about ten years ago, though, I could state that I had never begun a book and failed to finish it. At some point, probably in the middle of yet another godawful Stephen King novel, I finally said, "Enough. Life is too short to waste on this crap."

Since then, I've felt free to happily abandon many a piece of crap that was wasting my time. It's very liberating to pass that judgement and move on.

(And yes, King is a particular pet peeve of mine. I'll bet I've read a dozen of his books. With the exception of exactly two, they were all terrible. Somehow a couple of years would pass, I'd forget how much I'd hated the last one, another would come into my possession, and there I'd be: trapped by my hidebound insistence that I must finish the damned thing. No more.)

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