Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Billy Bathgate

I'm reading E.L. Doctorow's Billy Bathgate. I'm confused, unimpressed, and frankly pretty bored. His writing is very much a stream of consciousness, and I find this style tedious because the thoughts tend not to be resolved. I understand that this is how my mind, your mind, and Billy Bathgate's mind actually works, but if I'm reading something I'm specifically looking for coherent, complete thoughts. To me, a good book is good because it is able to overcome the stream of consciousness and express complex thoughts in a finite set of words or sentences.

That problem aside, the book suffers from the "wildly improbable and gratuitous sexual encounter" syndrome. I get that Billy is infatuated with Drew Preston, and that Ms. Preston might find something innocently attractive about the younger Billy. Yet their mud-encrusted naked romp through a scummy upstate New York pond is frankly just silly. I actually laughed when I read this, it was so ludicrous. My opinion is that the relationship between the two of them would have been much more engaging and heartbreaking if it was unrequited, two people who could be in love but for circumstances.

I'm nearly done with the book, and thankfully so. I'm not sure how much longer I can maintain my attention to sentences that run to 40 or 50 words at a time. Here's a quick rule of thumb: no more than 3 commas in a sentence.

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