I brought home a whole bunch of books from the library a couple of weeks ago. And most of them have gone back after being merely dipped into. I found myself with too many pretentious and dull contemporary novels, which just reminded me why I don't normally read This Year's Notable Books. The non-fiction was no more satisfying, mostly sophomoric ad hominem screeds pretending to be reasoned argument, and memoirs with way too many graphic descriptions of horrific child abuse.
But I was looking forward to Winter World, by Bernd Heinrich, about the ways animals survive the winter. And I am still trying to enjoy it, because I like learning things like that the golden-crowned kinglet is one of the most common birds in North America even though most people have never seen one (new ambition for 2004: spot a golden-crowned kinglet!). But the writing in this book is insufferably bad, bordering on the incoherent. On nearly every page, I am stumped by sentences like this one:
My anticipated winter excursion to see crossbills, or for whatever looking for crossbills might yield, I had driven to Maine in the night. (38)
What's up with that noun phrase trying to look like a modifier? And the weak parallelism? And how can a trip that has already happened be anticipated? What did the author think he was trying to say here? What did his editor think? Did he have an editor? Is this the result of an unfortunate cut-and-paste accident that left the beginning of one coherent sentence and the end of another one fused nonsensically while the two halves that would have made them whole were carelessly deleted?
Every page. I kid you not. I may keep trying with this book for awhile, but then I think there has to be a less painful way to learn about how animals winter. Like building a lean-to in the woods, moving into it with a six months' supply of beef jerky and a nature notebook, and figuring it out for myself.
I'm just glad I quit buying books. This one just has to be popped back into the libary bag for return; at least I don't have to think, "Well, that's $24.95 I'll never see again."Posted by Su Penn at December 24, 2003 12:11 PM | TrackBack