Thursday, January 04, 2007

"You must be the short depressed kid we ordered."

A really good book will start off interestingly enough to catch and hold your attention; the middle will concentrate on developing character and intelligent plot, and the end will, no matter how neatly (or not) wrapped up, leave you wanting more.

You Gotta Have Balls follows this formula almost exactly -- in the opposite direction. I pushed through the wishy-washy beginning, its nonstarter women’s group subplot and the introduction to the whiny, neurotic, and insecure Ruth, to get caught up in the strong, funny characters of Edek and Zofia, and their crazy scheme to open a New York restaurant specializing in meatballs, and finished reading this afternoon, glad to be shot of the increasingly irritating Ruth, and hoping against hope right up to the end that Brett sees fit to consign her protagonist to a undignified death under a bus’s wheels.

What, as we said eons ago when I was in high school, is her major malfunction? She is never happy, revoltingly needy for a supposedly successful adult woman, completely unappreciative of her self-sufficient and vibrant father, and resentful of any scheme that doesn’t center on her. I could not understand how her children could stand to be around her, how her best friend can stand her, or why on earth her husband decides to return from Australia where he has blessedly escaped for a six-month-long business venture.

My initial complaint about the novel was that I found the written accents/dialects distracting; I kept thinking, OK we get it, Edek talks like the ancient Polish-emigrated-to-Australian Jew he is, do you need to spell it out Every. Single. Time. He. Speaks? But after a while, I fell into the rhythm of that and found it sort of endearing in an exasperating way.

I NEVER found Ruth endearing in the least.

We never find out why Ruth is so opposed to her father’s girlfriend, we don’t find out what Garth is doing in Australia and why Ruth is so insecure about him being gone; we never find out more about Ruth’s issues with her children. There is so much in this book that is glossed over; I couldn’t decide if Brett was being lazy or just circumspect, leaving plot twists and deep dark secrets to the imagination of the reader.

Would I read another Lily Brett? Maybe.

IF the subplots were explored and developed instead of penciled in as if for further development.

IF the characters were allowed to develop via actions and interactions rather than cutesy accents and the egregious use of metaplasmus (the term for a literary device which I feel compelled to use because it took me half an hour to find out what the heck the use of spelling to delineate dialect was called!)

IF the protagonist was not a thoroughly unlikeable, whiny, neurotic, moody, in-denial depressive that drove me batshit crazy.

That's a big IF.


Gina said...

I love that you just taught me a word, and I love that there is a word for using spelling to signify dialect, but I am disappointed in the word itself! Why does it have to be such an ugly, made-up-sounding word?

Why am I so picky?

Anonymous said...

Thanks. I don't think I'll be reading that book.

I'm reading The Memory Keeper's Daughter. It's disturbing me.

Joke said...

"Metaplasmus" sounds like something which needs lancing.


lazy cow said...

You know, I agree with a lot of your thoughts about Ruth, whining cow that she is, but I do find her endearing, despite her faults. Edek and his fabulously confident girlfriend (I want to be just like her when I'm old!) were my favourite characters. I do feel guilty that you wasted time on one of my recommendations though!

Gina said...

You're so right, Joke! "I need a few days off because my mom is having a metaplasmus removed."

Joke said...

"Dude, you need that metaplasmus looked's revolting."


Booklogged said...

Laughed at the jokes about metaplasmus. That is truly a gooey word!

There's no IF about me reading this book. After your review, I will not be reading it, unless I see the title and wonder what it was I heard about this book and pick it up thinking the comment must have been positive. I do that sometimes. Somewhere on my TBR list I should keep track of the real big no-nos.