Books Slog Commenter Book Report 3: Aislinn Visits The Land of No Right Angles
posted by September 16 at 12:02 PMon
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.