Thursday, March 16, 2006

I'm Falling out of Love

David Payne is one of my favorite authors. He hasn't published a book since 2000, so I was very excited when I received an email from ML at the Island Bookstore that said, "We're booking David Payne for a June 8 signing. I'm going to send you the reading copy of his new book only if you promise to read it and give me a full report." I was even more excited when the book arrived, and I began reading it almost immediately. However, my excitement was short-lived because, well, how do I say this?. . .the book sucks. It's not just that I don't like this book as much as Payne's others, because I was prepared for that. It's that this book is bad. I mean really really bad. Awful. Like worse than a Nicholas Sparks book, which is pretty much as bad as it gets.

Okay, specifically, here's what I don't like about David Payne's new book (which, incidentally, is called Back to Wando Passo and is due out in June):

1) It's melodramatic and overwritten. Payne does lean a bit towards the dramatic, but I've always excused this because he writes such good stories and I get emotionally caught up in them. This is not true of Wando Passo, which is full of shit like this: "Finally -- to the tune of "Five Little Ducks" -- they set out. They were down to four, when the opossum or raccoon -- the remains had reached the state where it was hard to differentiate -- disappeared under the hood. As the tires tump-tumped, Ran caught Hope's expression in the rearview. Her face had gone grave; her eyes had that scintillating and musing light. She seemed like a tiny mathematician working out a problem, and it struck her father that his little girl had found the deep equation that would occupy her life. She had the artist gene -- Ran didn't know what else to call it, or if he would have wished her spared." Ugh. What the hell is he even talking about?!

2) The plot is ridiculous. In a nutshell, and without giving anything away, this is a book about a washed-up rock star who's been estranged from his wife and children and is returning home (to Wando Passo!) to make things right. Unfortunately, he's bipolar and he's off his meds so he keeps fucking everything up. Or wait, maybe he's fucking everything up because Wando Passo, an old South Carolina plantation with a history of. . .wait for it. . .slavery, is cursed. Because we also learn that something sketchy went down at Wando Passo a few hundred years ago, and that the something sketchy centers around the fact that the white plantation owner had an affair with one of his black slaves and did not subsequently free her or their offspring. How original.

3) None of the characters is likeable or believable. There's Ransom (or Ran, for short), the troubled musician who won't take the medicine that keeps him from being quite so troubled; his wife Claire, who inherited the cursed plantation, is apparently quite hot, and who may or may not be having an affair with her long-time friend (and Ran's long-time enemy) Marcel (or Cell, for short), who is black, which we don't even find out until chapter 15. A few hundred years ago there was Percival, the master of Wando Passo, and his mistress Paloma; Harlan, Percival's legitimate and white son, who has recently married Adelaide (or Addie, for short), a nice girl from a nice family in Charleston; Jarry, the illegitimate mixed-race son of Percival and Paloma; and Clarisse, Paloma's daughter by a previous master (or is she?). It is nearly impossible to give a shit about what happens to any of these people, as there seems to be little more to them than their respective skin tones.

So what does this mean for my beloved David Payne? Do I still love him? Can I still love him? I don't know. I know that when I read Gravesend Light in 2001 I loved it, and then I read Ruin Creek, which he wrote before Gravesend Light, and loved that one slightly more. Then I hunted down a used copy of Early from the Dance (which was out of print at the time but has since been reissued) and fell head over heels for it. Early from the Dance is one of my all-time favorite books, and one that I frequently re-read. But I'm afraid to now. What if stupid Wando Passo has ruined David Payne for me forever? What if I've fallen out of love?


Brian said...

Dude, I don't wanna rag on Ellen or nothin', on acount of, I don't really know her, but her blog hasn't changed since last november...she's totally not keepin' up her end of your guy's deal

Megan said...

Well, I made a drunken pinky swear that I would go to the DMB concert and then broke it (I HAD to, it was that or go to a Dave Matthews concert!), so I guess I set the precedent for deal-breaking. But yeah, her blog is lame.