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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"Small Vices"

This Robert Parker "Spenser" novel ended up being the book club selection this month.  I'm kind of annoyed because, while it's probably a fun read, what can there possibly be to *discuss*???  I didn't join a book club to read pulp fiction like this - I want to be challenged, not anesthetized.

ADDENDUM  3/24/11

I got this at the library as quickly as I could, because I kind of wanted to get it out of the way, so I could get on with the stack of books on my bedside table.  It's a fast read, with very short chapters, which makes it easy to read at night in bed, and on the bus. 

I thought it  had early promise - the crime Spenser is investigating is the wrongful conviction of a young black man, and issues of racism were front and center at first.  I was actually enjoying the book for the first 1/2 or so, but then it got very silly, with lots of macho passages - the great Spenser eludes every threat and out-thinks every advesary.  This is very much what I suspected the book would be like. 

Then he gets shot, and spends many chapters in Santa Barbara recovering.  Zzzzzzzzz. 

In the end, the moral dilemma is stated, but not resolved - 2 very bad criminals go free and the lives of two decent people who made a big mistake are ruined.  Not very satisfying and not even a very good read.  (And what the hell does the title mean???  The "vices" of these characters are very great indeed.  Is he being ironic?)

I especially disliked the side story about Susan and Spenser adopting a child - the issue is resolved quickly, neatly, and without rancor, in (of course) the way that Spenser desired all along.  It was just so bull-shitty. Susan is basically a device - she isn't developed much as a character and mostly her scenes in the book serve to show what a wonderful man Spenser is, either because she says so, or because he brings her food or they have sex or whatever.  Gah!

I found myself thinking about the books I've enjoyed lately, like Fire or Poison Study, where the "star" of the book is not unlike Spenser - wise and capable, and admired by other characters.  But I genuinely think there's a difference - these characters are full of self doubt, and the reader hears their internal conversation.  Spenser has no doubts, no "psychology" really, which makes the book (books) much less entertaining to me.



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