When Do You Give Up on a Well-Written, Terrible Book?

I just finished Centuries of June which I had to force myself to read, so I am embarrassed to tell you that not only did I finish it, it sucked clear through to the end. I don’t know if I thought that the ending was going to be so much more amazing than everything that had come before that it would make the rest of the book look good in retrospect or if it would turn out to be a giant metaphor for America or… I don’t know. Something.

But no. Here’s the whole plot of the book. Man makes women suffer. Every one of them, except one, is basically good and decent and he dicks them over, but sometimes not even in ways that really appear to be his fault. And yet, in the context of the book, we’re certainly supposed to understand him as being at fault. So, on they go to their having-been-dicked-over-by-him-ness and he flits from one woman to the next.

And then at the end, he’s the one who gets comforted and enlightened.

So, yes, read about a lot of women having sad lives and sometimes dying, just so that the narrator can be comforted and enlightened.

Keith Donohue is a really good writer, though, so it’s hard to believe, with as good as the prose is, that the book sucks as much as it does. I just kept thinking, well, maybe after this next part… And the women are really memorable, but ugh. It’s just one bit of despair after another with not real outlet for grief.

So, even though it was obvious that it was just going to be one shitty life after another for the women, I kept reading, lured on by the beautiful writing, figuring there had to be some amazing pay off.

There is not.

Why did I keep reading? Because I am an idiot.

The CD Should Come with a Minivan

Beth sent me a link to this article, because she thought it was relevant, at least tangentially, to our ongoing discussions about list songs and authenticity. The whole post is good, but I’ve been mulling over this:

But it’s wrapped up in so much ass-kissing right wing family values bullshit that there’s a wall through which the music doesn’t penetrate, it lives in its own ghetto, happy as a pig in shit, but it could be so much more.

And this nags at me. Not because I think it’s wrong, but because it’s right except for the “happy as a pig in shit” part. Now, obviously, I’m not in the music industry, but I live here and I know folks and one of the things that strikes me is that a lot of folks in it have at least a little chip on their shoulder. I know it happened years ago, but I just keep thinking of that Raul Malo show over at BMI and standing there in a room full of industry bigwigs, some industry bigwig introducing Malo, going on about how here was real country music, music they won’t let folks listen to any more or some such posturing bullshit. And everyone clapped and cheered, as if they were the horse and not the people holding the reigns.

I believe country music culture is more conservative than most of American culture, sure. But so much more conservative? No.

The weird thing is that a lot of folks in the music industry walk around imagining the most fuckerly yahoo there could be and then trying to pander to him, while at the same time keeping the attention of the women-folk. I think that’s one of the reasons Toby Keith, Trace Adkins, and John Rich have the success they’ve had. They are fuckerly yahoos. They’re not imagining some made-up listener. They’re performing songs that appeal to themselves. And so their music, in a sea of songs that only imagine the fuckerly yahoo as its primary market, sounds authentic.

Ha, lord knows Toby Keith makes me shake my head about every other day, but I’m suddenly struck by the idea that country music could be improved 100% if everyone in the music industry asked two questions–“Would Toby Keith like this?” and “Would we worry about leaving this artist at a bar next to Toby Keith for fear Keith would beat him up after a few beers?”

I don’t think every song needs to be a song Toby Keith might like, but, if Keith would like it, it is important that Keith not want to punch the singer. And, I must say, I don’t think many of these list kids could pass the second test.

Note, also, that you couldn’t use Adkins for this because dude has such terrible luck that he’d probably fall under a tractor trying to punch the kid. And then we’d all be like “How did that tractor get into this bar anyway?” but it would be too late, because Adkins would be under it. And Rich? Who the hell hasn’t he punched? Or thought about punching? He’s too quick on the punching draw to be useful.

I think we have to imagine a world where Hank Williams Jr. and Toby Keith go around saving country music from itself. Miranda Lambert could be Batgirl.