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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Slog Commenter Book Report 3: Aislinn Visits The Land of No Right Angles

posted by on September 16 at 12:02 PM


As you know by now, I bring a batch of advance reader copies to Slog Happy, with the caveat that the person who reads (or tries to read) the book has to review it for all of us here on Slog.

Today’s reviewer is the lovely and talented (and, perhaps most importantly, fellow born-in-Mainer) Aislinn. Aislinn will be reviewing In the Land of No Right Angles, by Daphne Beal. Anything you don’t like about this review no doubt is due to the editing process and not at all Aislinn’s fault and you should blame the editor. I am the editor.

Have you met the lady who has spent too much time traveling the world? She wears ill-fitting clothes, generally a combination of one thing that’s too big and one thing that’s too small, and loves Chacos because they’re so versatile. No matter the topic, she is always able to steer the conversation to something that happened to her while she was abroad, because it was truly a Life-Changing Experience. She was in my creative writing class at Seattle Central, actually. Maybe you’ve seen her around.

Daphne Beal’s In the Land of No Right Angles reminded me a lot of that lady. Each mewling chapter spirals further into condescension, narcissism, and clichés, until it peters out into a climax-free ending that is as pointless as it is boring.

The blurb hypes a hot interracial love triangle (the main appeal, apparently), but it was hard to believe that anything about the book was going to be sexy after reading:

I was twenty and about to go trekking in the central Hill Region of Nepal by myself after living in the country for almost eight months when I mentioned it to my friend Will.

That is the second sentence. The first sentence is no gem either, but this one almost made me put the book down. I was able to press on only by reminding myself that this was a galley copy, and such poor construction was unlikely to have made it through to the final cut. (ED NOTE: It totally made it through to the final cut.) It would be unfair to say this sentence is representative of Ms. Beal’s overall style, as she does write some nice descriptions of scenery, but this was one of many sentences that made me disappointed in everyone who ever told her that she was a good writer.

Aside from exploiting Nepali culture and faking her way through the most lukewarm love triangle in the history of sexual tension, my biggest problem was the main character, Alex Larson’s general unbelievability. She inexplicably became a crier in the last few chapters, despite showing no sign of this tendency for the first eight years of the story. Also, she usually cried when faced with semi-romantic hardships of the most banal variety, and never when confronted with anything actually sad, like women sold into sexual slavery or people dying of AIDS. I wondered if this was supposed to be a comment on Western women growing more self-centered as they age, but I’m pretty sure it was just poor character control. Those last, meandering chapters also include the introduction of unnecessary swear words, and the most infuriating passage of the book:

”You seemed to be having a good time.”
“A great time, and now I’m going back.”
“What if I won’t let you go?” He held my wrists.
“You will,” I said, refusing to wriggle. “It’s too much like commitment.”
“Okay, then,” he said, rolling to the side. “But surely you have time for one more?” His fingertips trailed down my sternum.
“Surely,” I said. Sluttiness could be its own reward.

Sluttiness!? Alex sleeps with a total of four men in EIGHT YEARS. She rebuffs all sexual advances from her female Nepali friend. One man was “self-conscious and insecure,” and another was crying as he asked her if they could “make love.” Three of the four (one isn’t described physically) are blond and American, despite two of the encounters taking place in India. Oh, and they’re all well-off and/or successful, and she knows each of them well before things get physical. Alex is not a “slut” at all, and characterizing her as such honestly offended me. Also, the statement “sluttiness could be its own reward” is nonsensical, unless she’s referring to orgasms. In which case: duh.

If you like travel, or sex, or yourself, don’t read this book.

Many thanks to Aislinn.

RSS icon Comments


I have read that sentence 5 times and I still don't understand it.

Posted by boxofbirds | September 16, 2008 12:21 PM

That was great.

Posted by mint chocolate chip | September 16, 2008 12:26 PM

Top review. And yes, I know ladies like that.

Posted by Fnarf | September 16, 2008 12:39 PM

Excellent review! Well done Aislinn, and well done Mr. Constant for the uptick in bookiness I've noticed on the Slog since you ascended to book editor. Keep it up.

Posted by brinsonian | September 16, 2008 12:41 PM

Aislinn should write a book about a hot interracial love triangle. With a dalek. I'd learn to read just to partake of such a magnum opus.

Posted by Joh | September 16, 2008 1:02 PM

Great review!


Posted by Rotten666 | September 16, 2008 1:06 PM

Ok, now I forgive you for coming to bed at 4am, because that totally owned.

Somehow I get the sense that you were inspired by the movie we watched last night?

P.S. <3

Posted by w7ngman | September 16, 2008 1:22 PM

There are few things I love better than having other people read terrible books and then savage them for my glee and delectation.

This one reminds me of the very first galley I ever read, way back in my college bookstore days. It was about Mormons studying abroad in the Holy Land (!) and the author was clearly obsessed with Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (again, !), and it took me six chapters before I realized that when the author said "racist," he really meant "racial." Which is, you know, kind of a significant suffix change. The kids spent a lot of time awkwardly wrestling across gender lines (and giggling -- oh, the giggling) and exchanging lines of expositional dialogue about soil composition. Reading the book was like giving yourself whiplash while holding still.

One sentence burned itself into my memory:

"'Don't you like charity?' Kirsten asked with seduction."

Posted by Alicia | September 16, 2008 1:25 PM

@8: Oh my God, that's the best sentence ever.

Posted by Paul Constant | September 16, 2008 2:04 PM

Thanks Aislinn, that was great. I'm so glad that I did not pick up that book looking for eldritch horror.

Also, I went to high school with a girl like this. Most of junior and senior year involved dramatic retellings of the study-abroad program in Spain that Changed Her Life, and also the story about That One Time She Almost Went All The Way With That Spanish Boy.

Posted by Greg | September 16, 2008 5:31 PM

"made me disappointed in everyone who ever told her that she was a good writer".......

so wait, more disappointing than dylan?

Posted by dana | September 18, 2008 12:01 AM

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Posted by ykpthuw twyvofdna | September 20, 2008 10:33 PM

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