Bill Carroll appears.
So in my last post, I gave a quick synopsis of what I thought the book group’s overall reaction to Vampires in the Lemon Grove was, as well as my own reaction– people, I was way off. I like Bill Carroll’s response best:
Writing was really uneven, sometimes even within stories. Too often I felt like the stories started with a really cool intellectual idea, and then the writer built the story around it. That may work for some readers, but I really want the writing and the experience of the narrative itself to be worth the price of admission (e. g. The Night Circus). There were moments when the story of the silk-workers did this, and it happened to be the story I most enjoyed, but in the end, it left me wishing I had read Elegance of the Hedgehog instead. In this genre, I would recommend anything by Neil Gaiman over this, and if you can handle grittier subject matter, Stuart Neville’s Ghosts of Belfast or (drop in quality a bit) Paul Cornell’s London Falling.
People, I totally missed that this book fit with Neil Gaiman et. al. A book containing a story in which women are slowly transformed into silkworms, who then murder their captor– I missed that this might fit with horror/suspense/general eeriness. If I had realized this, 1. I would never have given it to Whitney for her birthday (SORRY WHITNEY!), 2. I would have waited until October to recommend reading it with the book group (SORRY, BOOK GROUP!), and 3. I would NOT have described it as “quirky but serious.” (SORRY, ENGLISH LANGUAGE!) In fact, I am banning myself from using the word quirky for, oh, a year at least. (Or until I forget I’ve banned myself. You, dear reader, are welcome to remind me.)
This is why I need to talk about what I read with people, because I miss even really obvious stuff. Yay for communal learning.
I also didn’t notice the writing being particularly uneven, but I think it’s clear my powers of observation were on vacation while I was reading this book. I did notice there were some stories I preferred to others, but I thought it was just a matter of taste. I agree also with Bill’s assessment that the stories start with an idea, and then the story is built around that, but that kind of writing works for me, so I didn’t see it as a fault. As for suggesting Neil Gaiman’s work in preference to this– well, obviously anything by Neil Gaiman is better. If Neil Gaiman’s work is an option, always choose Neil Gaiman.
So here’s another question related to this, and not meaning to cause trouble or anything, but I can’t help but notice that all of Bill’s recommended reading is all male, and the author of Vampires in the Lemon Grove is female. Bill Carroll isn’t sexist, I happen to know, but I wonder if this genre might be? A little? I’m hard put to think of any female writers of speculative horror fiction (Anne Rice, right? But I think she’s more pulp than any of the writers listed above. Is that sexist of me?). So I’m wondering if part of the reason Vampires in the Lemon Grove is less enjoyable is because it requires a different way of reading this genre than we are used to? I out of my depth here (OBVIOUSLY, SINCE APPARENTLY I CAN’T EVEN RECOGNIZE THIS GENRE WHEN I READ IT), but I know many of you are more familiar with these books than I am. So what are your thoughts?
Also, here’s an interview with Karen Russell that I quite enjoyed reading.