November 15, 2011

The pound cake version


I came across the name of an author I had jotted down, an author that was mentioned in a
blog I sometimes read. I had finally gotten around to picking up one of her books at the
library. I love my library. A book can be reserved online if it exists anywhere in the county
system; a few days later, a phone call informed me that the book was ready for pick-up.
Kindle me that. The author writes short stories that are deeply admired by her following,
including the blog author who had mentioned her name, and who has adopted her style. 

Within a few pages, I developed a prejudice against her querulous self-absorption. By the
third story I was too annoyed to continue. The prevailing mood of her writing is an archly
deadpan but condescending bewilderment occasioned by a vivid scrutiny of the ordinary
and of those around her, of moderately affluent circumstances that are simultaneously
celebrated by the attention accorded them, and disdained. It’s full of name brands, crunchy
idiomatic phrasing, and appealing trivia. She’s quirky, and her nihilistic forbearance, one
understands, is adorable. But the thing that turned me against her the most is that the
blogger who admires her, and has absorbed her voice so shamelessly, is more agreeable
than she is. He can be callous, but she’s an even more relentless and cold-hearted version
of him. He's ruined her for me.

I have mixed feelings about all this. While I understand that he’s appropriated her very
original style, he’s made it more palatable. He’s pound cake to her almond extract. At the
same time, I find it impossible to read his blog now without tasting its imitation flavor with
every bite, even though I enjoy it. Granted, there are occasional, and sometimes lengthy,
excursions away from this emulation. But I prefer it when he returns. I suspect the author
would have some cranky, but endearingly resigned, observation about this. But I have
only enough tolerance for one of her in my life, and he's it.



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