Wednesday, September 3, 2008

In the Woods by Tana French

You know what I wish? On an evening when I have not much to do, no reason to set the alarm in the morning, really nothing more pressing than the basic necessities for the next month or two (I should just end my wish there), I wish that some great story teller - David Sedaris or Augusten Burroughs, Joseph Heller or Sylvia Plath, Burl Ives or hell, even Morag Joss (maybe she has an accent?!) - would sit down on the edge of my bed and whisper, “wanna hear a story?
I do!
You see, I haven’t been able to enjoy a good mystery for a long time. None of us can, really, because we’re just too smart. Even if I do fall for the little twists and turns, I know it’s not really the solution because I still have 172 pages left. Unless the author plans on just rehashing it all for the equivalent of another whole book, I know there’s going to be at least one more twist in the plot.
We all know it.
We all know that any movie that is under 90 minutes is pretty much a rip-off and anything over 2 hours is just plain ridiculous (I just drank a Diet Coke the size of my head, here, cut me some slack!), and we know there are precisely 12 minutes of trailers before the film begins, so we even know exactly how late we can arrive without missing anything!
We’re too smart for mysteries.
We always have been. Even when we were children, we knew that there was no way - - not Ponch nor Jon, not Starsky nor Hutch, not even Sabrina, Kelly and Jill put together were going to be able to wrap this thing up in the next seven minutes so we KNEW the truth of the situation. It was .... to be continued!
I didn’t dislike In the Woods, per se. I thought it was a decent book and I liked some of the ideas she threw at me, but I always knew it was a trick. At one point, the narrator gives me this little speech:
“I am intensely aware, by the way, that this story does not show me in a particularly flattering light. I am aware that, within an impressively short time of meeting me, (she) had me coming to heel like a well-trained dog ...
But before you you decide to despise me too thoroughly, consider this: she fooled you, too.”
No, she didn’t! I thought that character was schizo the first time I met her, so don’t you dare try to drag me down, Mr. Narrator, because I am smarter than that!
While reading it, although I was really beginning to loath this lead character, I thought I would just play along, collect my evidence and enjoy the ride. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t fall for any of the twists, no matter how hard I tried. (She did get me, once, I'll admit, because I thought there was no way it would be wrapped up at this point with so many pages left ... turns out, that was it.)
So, what I wish is that Ms. French would take me for a walk - why not? - into the woods. We would have our sleeping bags and a jug of wine, maybe a snack, and she would ask me in a soft, quiet voice, “wanna hear a story?”
And we would walk into the woods and find a place to camp. We’d light a fire and open the wine and she would simply tell me the story. Her voice would subtly change for each character and I would be able to feel her passion for the tale. I would not be aware of the time at all, so I would have no idea if the end was near! She would build tension and excitement! Each little crack or rustle in the trees around us would send me screaming and giggling until she could continue her narrative. And when she was finished, we would lie back in our sleeping bags, look at the stars in the sky, shudder as an owl cries out his mournful song, and I would say, “Good one, Tana. So, do you wanna hear a story....?”

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