Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Book I Admired for its Body

I have other plans for this blog, I swear.

It's just right now...my whole life is revolving around books. I had a huge pile--probably 40+--of books I hadn't read yet (I know, I know, there are others out there with way more than that; my problem wasn't nearly so advanced as some) but to me that number was still a disgrace. So I have been concentrating on reading and reading and reading, especially this summer--flying through all these books, hoping to get to the end of the pile before the end of the year. (Fun fact: I found a receipt in one of the books I read earlier this year dated from 2010...yeah, that's when I bought it.)

And now I'm down to only thirteen! Everybody say, YAY!

But unfortunately that means I only have one thing on my mind, and consequently only one thing to blog about: more books. I haven't even been writing this summer (silly of me since summer is when I have the most time, but then I get lazy and writing looks a lot like work, and it's easier to pick up someone else's book than to think about my own). But just because I haven't been writing, doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about writing; it is both a blessing and a curse to pick up a book and read it as a writer; it's an entirely different experience, I tell you. And there are some books where the writing is noncommittal but I focus on the story; there are other books where the writing itself is what grabs me; and always a mixture of the two.

And then there are the books that captivate, fascinate, intrigue, and impress me, based solely on their craft, their construct, alone. It's like admiring a man for his body over his personality , forsaking the face for the love of those sweet, sweet abs.

Which isn't to say that a book with a great body doesn't also have a great personality. In fact, the one I'm thinking of right now is quite the opposite--it's got it all. A fascinating plot-line, a deep, jarring, sometimes uncomfortable look into the human psyche and what makes us human, as well as some just good stories--but what really gets my heart beating faster with this baby is its execution of all those things.

Want to know which one it is?

World War Z by Max Brooks

If you've seen the movie and think you know what this book is about, forget it. You don't. (Don't get me wrong though, I enjoyed the movie, existing as something separate and unrelated to the novel.) It says it there on the cover--an "oral history"...that is, the entire book is conducted like an interview between the author and men and women who survived the war--and it's not just one person or a group of them, with intertwining stories. They are all separate and different and unique, and the only thing linking them is their encounter with the living dead. It's basically like a collection of short stories, except they're not told in the normal narrative format.

Imagine it: a book without a cohesive story arc (well, there actually is, sort of--Brooks bends the rules but doesn't always break them), without a proper protagonist, without one person to get behind and root for the entire way, and with a barely sentient group of antagonists! Where's the main character? Where's their personal enemy? The one overall goal? The single storyline? None of that exists in this novel! (Is it even a "novel"?)

But it works. Anyone can tell you that. I've barely begun to question why because I can't stop admiring it. I can't imagine what it must have been like trying to write this, each "interview" at a time, separate but related, mismatched and all over the place, each time introducing a new character, a new way of speech and thought, a new setting, a new problem. Sometimes these people aren't even sympathetic or likeable at all, but the book sure is! I'd love to have a nice long chat with Max Brooks about his methods and notes and first drafts and his craft in general. It's a glorious approach, and I love the way he's broken down all the constructs of the traditional narrative.

Want to know a secret? I haven't even finished the book yet. I'm only halfway through. But I was so smitten by the way it was written (oh, rhyme not intended but now that's it's out there it's staying) that I couldn't wait to finish it before I posted about it; I had to tell everyone right now about this book with the beautifully sculpted body. Yowza.

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