Monday, November 5, 2012

Nice Shootin' Tex

No idea what this is. So it’s fitting.

Some books remind me of a wander in the forest. The trail is there, clearly marked where many have gone on before, and I know where I’ll end up at the end. There’s plenty to look at, however, with little detours that take you to interesting places you didn’t expect to find on a little wander through the woods. You’ll hear that whistle you think for a long time is a bird of prey, but then you remember – finally – it’s the sound of a marmot, giving his fellows a warning that you’re lumbering through.

Other books remind me of a Cub Scout Pinewood derby. From start to finish, you pretty much know where the cars will go, who will win, and how long it’ll take for the race to be over.

Daron Fraley’s “Thirty Six” fits the derby category.

Fraley’s world – in which a lapsed Jew pursues a love interest (there’s the straight Derby path for you) framed in a larger story of becoming a dream-interpreter and visionary when he comes into possession of a bit of onyx frippery he bought at an antiques store in France – seems oddly depopulated. There are the main characters, who are either brushing their teeth or flipping through channels or flipping through computer programming books, or being distant, romantic potentials, or are there for some kind of plot motivation. Kind of like the typical people you see at Kmart – none of whom you’d care to know because you see them everywhere.

There’s nothing mystical about this world, or at least the way it’s written. It feels more like an English class assignment than an exciting novel. Exotic locations – From Lyons, France, to tiny Meeteetse, Wyoming, may as well be interchanged, because there’s no telling one from the other the way Fraley writes. They’re all equally dull. And in a book where there’s ample room for mysticism, the language used is ordinary. I guess it’s good enough to get the story out, but there’s nothing really here for the senses.

I do commend Fraley for handling action well – something I struggle to do. Certain scenes towards the end of the book are gone in a flash with a lot of stuff happening. That’s good. There’s just not enough happening the rest of the time. I know books shouldn’t feel or sound written, but the pendulum can swing too far in that direction if you ask me.

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