Finally dragged my way to the last page of People of the Whine. Don't actually know why I bothered, except maybe I was hoping for some last minute change of direction. But no, these indecisive, puling nitwits of the tundra manage to keep up their pointless bickering, meandering and quasi-new-age (ancient-age?) spiritualism all the way to the last stanza of bad poetry. (Shudder) Stay Away. Notice I didn't bother with the amazon link for my .05 fee for a referral. Really. Keep it.
I had decided to take a chance on this book as a sort of methadone until Auel continues her own opus du paleolithic. And let me say that I can dish Cave Bear with the best of them - I have more bones to pick with The Adventures of Amazing Ayla than she uses to invent the perpetual motion device. (Soon to come on volume 8!) So while I was listing this unpleasant bit of fiction with Paperback Swap, I tried to figure out what the real difference was for me.
Some is fairly obvious. Quality of writing. Descriptive and narrative style. Character development. Storyline. Bread and butter stuff. But what *really* makes the difference for me - I think - is the intelligence and charisma of the lead character.
I want - no, I think I NEED - the hero of a story to be smarter than I am. Braver, sure, more clever, why not, more witty, absolutely. (Where else can I steal from?) But I will happily read about or enjoy watching a cowardly, socially deaf misanthrope if they were just smart.
I admire brains. I like my heroes to have 'em. And what's more, I like my heroes to USE them, especially in interesting ways. Sure, I want to find out that smarts don't always solve the problem in the first chapter or the first segment before the commercial. House would be dreadfully dull if that happened every week. And it's lovely, storywise, if smarts can't solve a problem by themselves - when the emo partner or the amusing sidekick, or time, or tragedy or luck or magic get into the action. That's story that might be worth telling.
What's more, I want my smart heroes to demonstrate their brains not only by coming up with good stuff on the fly, but by learning from experience. That's probably why a lot of "chick lit" doesn't appeal to me. (In addition to the fact that I can't really identify with a lot of the motives the main characters have.) It's just this feeling of "haven't we been through this before?" which pops up in disturbing frequency in relationship books aimed at women. Sex and the City was like a course in anthropology to me - "Socially stunted single women of the Serengeti go shoe shopping." I'd watch, wide-eyed, wondering if people really DID those things, lived like that. Putting out the same signals, making the same demands, the same concessions, the same mistakes over and over again and then, well, whining about the results. Entertaining, in half hour slices. Unacceptable as primary entertainment.
I think it's back to some crime novels for me, to wipe away the bad taste left by this novel.