Since I’m such a book nerd (try not to stagger in surprise at that revelation) I usually don’t mind mandatory reading. In fact, I’ve come to think of it as a great excuse to do what I love to do anyway. No guilt! What? The dishes aren’t washed? Well, I have this mandatory reading that I’ve got to do, so too bad!
I decided last year to go back to school and (finally!) finish up my degree. I haven’t regretted my choice for a single second (again, I’m a nerd….I LOVE SCHOOL!). I have, unfortunately, regretted some of the mandatory reading I’ve had to do.
Now, I like reading lots of different kinds of books, so really being forced to read something should never be a problem. Throw me some chick lit, sci fi, fantasy, mystery, romance, etc. and I’ll be just fine. These classes have involved lots of nonfiction reading about writing and book publishing, which I voluntarily read on a pretty regular basis anyway. Yay for reading assignments!
Then I had to read this book.
Rule of the Bone, by Russell Banks. I had never heard of this book before, and I didn’t even get around to seeing what it was about before I started reading it. (WARNING: If you think you might want to read this book someday, stop reading this blog post. It contains spoilers!) Our protagonist is Chappie, a fourteen-year-old boy who is “heavy into weed but I didn’t have any money to buy it with so I started looking around the house all the time for things I could sell but there wasn’t much.” And that sentence pretty much sums up what the first part of the book is about: doing whatever he needs to do to get high. How uplifting. Oh, but it gets better, because we find out that his mom and stepdad are alcoholics, and his stepdad has been sexually abusing him. With this wonderful family life as his basis, Chappie takes off into the world to find himself. He finds a gang of bikers to live with until they try to kill him, a little girl that has been sold to a porn producer, a Rastafarian that is too busy growing and selling weed to make any good decisions in life, and general chaos and destruction. Chappie also finds his real father, who happens to be quite the piece of work himself, but Chappie consoles himself by having sex with his father’s girlfriend. In the end, he only finds inner peace when all the people he has ever truly cared about are dead. Also, there’s no punctuation to get in your way. Our protagonist can’t be bothered with commas or quotation marks to clutter up his enchanting tale.
I’ll bet you can’t wait to read it, right? I mean the New York Times Book Review says it’s “a romance for a world fast running out of room for childhood.” Um, no. It’s not romantic at all, and it only drives childhood further out of the picture. I hope whoever wrote that got a frowny face memo, cause they obviously didn’t read the book.
I have to say that I don’t like to rant about books. I’m a writer, and I know that reviews are important. Nobody wants to hear how totally crappy their book is. I’m thinking, though, that Russell Banks will probably never see this, and if he does he won’t mind since his book has done very well. And I’m not saying the book was poorly done. While the lack of punctuation will drive any typical English major crazy, it creates a style that fits in well with the story. I just really hate the story. I don’t want to read about drugs, child porn, crime, and sex between people that really shouldn’t be having it. So good for you, Russell Banks, but I am not a fan.