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Desert Solitaire
by Edward Abbey

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The Instructions
Adam Levin

This one unfortunately goes in the very small category of books that I started but didn’t finish.  I gave it a chance — a really good chance, actually.  But 500 pages into it, I still just didn’t care.  Didn’t care about the story, didn’t care about the characters, didn’t care about the art or the language of the thing.  With another 500 pages to go, I pushed it into the library’s return slot.

It’s a Catcher in the Rye sort of story, about a kid who isn’t quite a kid, a who thinks he might become the Messiah.  That’s not a bad premise for a book, and it sets up for some interesting character development.  But then there isn’t any.  Gurion Macabee, the protagonist, is exactly the same on page 500 as he was on page 1.  Like Catcher in the Rye, it’s really just a character sketch, but Salinger had the good sense not to make Catcher in the Rye 1000 pages long.  After the first 100 pages or so, the character is pretty well sketched.  Then you have to do something with him.

It’s not that I’m opposed to long books.  Gravity’s Rainbow has always been a favorite, and it’s a whole lot more dense than The Instructions.  But it also goes somewhere, has a narrative arc that has layers and depth.  It sets up a totally weird story, twists it back around itself, sews in a dozen bizarre characters, and still barely manages to tie the whole thing up at the end.  The Instructions doesn’t do that.  There’s virtually no story there.  It gives us our Holden Caulfield, and then just turns him loose to babble.  Some of the babble is mildly interesting, but there just didn’t seem to be any reason to finish reading the book.  Life’s short.  Into the return slot it goes.

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