Author: William Goldman
Details: (c) 1984 William Goldman; Pub Warner Books 1985; ISBN 0-446-32587-2
Verdict: The color of light is seriously amazing.
Reasons for reading it: rysmiel enthused about it lots.
How it came into my hands: When I was in Montreal, rysmiel took me on a tour of lots of very good second-hand bookshops. I ended up buying *blush* 24 books in one day. Twenty-four!
Soon after buying two dozen books in one day, I had a 12-hour journey to start reading them. I'm really glad I decided to start with this one; I really didn't even notice the time passing while I was reading. I'm not usually able to concentrate for a whole novel, but this one I just devoured. I feel as if I've been struck by lightning, almost. Every sentence of this just seems to work on a very intense, emotional level. And there's one unexpected twist after another, especially in the last section of the book, and every one of them just socked me and then I realized how perfectly it fits in with everything else that went before. The last paragraph came completely out of the blue and totally changed my reaction to the book up to that point. Just, wow.
Having said this, it's a book where not all that much happens. I'd find it hard to describe in a way that would convince anyone to want to read it: it's the story of a writer who has an unexpected success at a young age, and then spends the rest of his life not being able to follow up, while he and various other people have mostly miserable relationships. It's the kind of book that would be pretty boring if it didn't happen to be a work of genius. OK, so rysmiel did convince me to read it, and read it first when I had so many new exciting books to choose from. But it wasn't really the book I was expecting from rysmiel's description of it; I'm not sure my summary is any better, actually, because there's just so much going on and so many levels that it's difficult to summarize. Yeah, that sort of contradicts my starting out by saying that not much happens, but I think the thing is that most of what happens is on a psychological, character level rather than external events.
In some ways it's an extremely sad book. Being unable to write for years is by no means the worst thing that happens to Chub, and the sense of loss and misery at some of what he lives through are incredibly powerfully conveyed. If the book weren't so utterly thrilling (and I'm not doing well at explaining why), I would have found it hard to continue reading because it's so devastating, particularly the Seuss chapter at the end of Part II. I think what made it exciting is that I was so engaged with Chub, I really, really, passionately wanted things to go well for him and even if they wouldn't, I couldn't not know what would happen to him next.
There were a couple of tiny little things that didn't work too well for me. The letter from Kitchel asking for reconciliation after a major fight felt a bit false; even though Kitchel is supposed to be a genius, he is self-aware to an extent that makes it too obvious that he is a character in a book rather than a real person. Also, the stuff with Werner, and to some extent the whole Sandy thread, towards the end is a little too weird to fit well with the rest of the book.
I'm really not doing too well at explaining why tCoL grabbed me so much. I sort of want to compare it to Iain M Banks' The Player of Games, except that the main similarity seems to be that they're both brilliant, given that they're in entirely different genres and on different scales and I have no rationally sensible points of connection between the two books. It's something to do with really impressive characterization and something to do with the way everything fits together so beautifully as a really complicated but perfectly right whole, I think.
Wow. Such a very cool book.