Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Recent Reading: Anthropology of an American Girl

Anthropology of an American Girl is a what-not-to-do guide to anyone considering self-publishing. It’s not a dreadful book but I can almost hear the author talking to herself, convinced that this is the ONLY work she will ever publish and therefore, every single thought/emotion/interaction of her protagonist must be recorded to a navel-gazing degree that makes Holden Caulfield and Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom look distracted. In short, this book is exhausting to read. Overloaded, overwrought and overwritten, it’s clear that Hamann never met an adjective, adverb, simile, metaphor and descriptor she didn’t want to trample into submission. “Puerile lips”- really?

At 597 pages this book is 200 pages too long. A broken hearted anorexic teenager with low blood pressure simply does not warrant 597 pages when her strongest character trait is that she’s willing to be the trophy for a sexist, violent man who controls her. Evaline shows no propensity to live her own life (which, if you had any soul, you’d know is not possible because of the loss of the man who was her one true love) except for running away from any situation she finds uncomfortable.

What AOAAG needed was a vigorous editor with an active red pencil and the disposition to use it. Insightful prose loses its meaning when found on the same page as such nonsense like this: “I dressed in front of them because modesty seemed solemn and unnecessary, because sometimes a night has a natural drive, and you are transported past the conceit of your despair.” Or “It was like being hungry for blood and smelling it everywhere around, hearing it drive, and you do not mind it touching you when you are it and it is you.” Neither of these make sense much less contribute to the story. As poetry? OK. But not in the midst of action and definitely not on every page.

This book slogs through Evaline’s trials and tribulations until the last forty pages when Hamann finally gets a sense of pacing and cuts the excessive, leaden prose to reveal a scene of real humanity. Unfortunately, she obliterates that with her closing line, something so trite I was reminded of my high school journal. I had the common sense to burn it. Bottom line: this unending saga of nothing is not a mark of greatness but merely supreme self-indulgence.

p.s. It's snowing in Portland right now which is why you're not seeing any fab spring fashion. I'm freezing and getting aggravated.


tweedlibrarian said...

"Puerile lips?!?!" "Hearing blood drive?" I'll skip this one.

You put me to shame, chica! I've only read two entire books this year, and I know you've read...what, 20? Sigh. I should quit surfing so much!

Jena said...

I picked this up a few months ago but had to put it down about a chapter or so in - it was SO self-aware. It makes me sad because it really seemed like it had promise. Glad to see I'm not the only one.

Catherine said...

No, Jena, you were wise. I only plowed through because at some point I knew I would write about it. It was exhausting and not in a good way. Re-affirmed my belief in wanting to be an editor!

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