Thursday, April 17, 2008

Reader's Diary #347- William Gay: Twilight (FINISHED!)

I first heard of this at Kookiejar's when she mentioned how Stephen King picked William Gay's Twilight as his favourite book of 2007. A short while later Random House was giving away a few free copies, and so I jumped at the chance.

Before getting into the book, allow me to sidetrack. Since having kids, my wife's sentimentalities have changed and she's no longer able to stomach certain horror movies. We were both okay with the genre before, but now she's just too disturbed by those that are a little too realistic-- you know the ones: more about torture than make-believe monsters. So, last Halloween, knowing that I was in the mood to watch one again, she thought she'd compromise by renting Wrong Turn 2. We hadn't even seen the first one, but the promise of "hideously deformed inbred cannibals" was too much to pass up. We wanted cheese and boy, did it deliver.

Twilight wasn't nearly as entertaining. Granted the cliches are almost as bad (backwoods gun-happy hicks, villains left for dead who still manage to spring up, the old "you can stay here, but don't touch my beautiful daughter" scenario, and so forth) but Gay takes himself too seriously. Dropping quotes from William Shakespeare and Cormac McCarthy, the implication is that this will be a "literary" novel. It is not.

Even for a few cheap thrills, it was disappointing. The characters are psychologically flat and act in unbelievable ways, without clear motivations. Plus, the story itself is dull. Beginning with a twisted undertaker who desecrates the dead, that potentially interesting premise is all but forgotten as a hired goon sets off to track down a blackmailer who threatens to expose the heinous acts. So, while the publishers call it "a story about a perverse undertaker who won't let the dead rest" and while Gay throws in a few quotes about dead people, the bulk of the novel isn't about that at all. Instead it's your simple manhunter story. A while ago, after reading Richard Connell's "The Most Dangerous Game" I wrote, "The premise is one that hasn't grown old; man hunting man."

Perhaps it has.

The Soundtrack
1. Dead Men Tell No Tales- Motorhead
2. Last Caress- Misfits
3. Cemetary- The Headstones
4. You Can Run, But We'll Find You- Matchbook Romance
5. Dial-a-Cliche- Morrissey

(Kookiejar: if, after this review, you still want a copy, send me your address. You can have mine.)


Barbara Bruederlin said...

And it's a Stephen King pick? Yikes, sounds like Stephen is having a serious lapse of credibility.

Allison said...

Well I just finished reading Blaze by King a few weeks ago and loved it. He just recommended the movie Jumper in one of his columns. Credibility very much shaken with me now.

John Mutford said...

Barbara: I find King hit or miss, so I assume his recommendations would be hit or miss also.

Allison: I haven't seen Jumper. Barely even heard of it. I assume you have and didn't like it?

John Mutford said...

Kookiejar's glowing review is here.

kookie said...

Hmmm, what I liked best about it was that Gay chose to focus less on Fenton's creepy lifestyle and more on the chase through the backwoods. I would have been disappointed if it had been the other way around.

You are right, that the author is obviously a HUGE fan of Cormac McCarthy (since he not only used quotes of McCarthy's work, but also employed a similar style and tone), but I thought it worked to his advantage because he didn't seem as somber (or morose) as McCarthy is so much of the time.

Thank you for pointing me to your review, John. It is so interesting to read a viewpoint that is directly opposite your own.