I've been doing a lot of reading over the past few days--what I'll call "book-learnin'" as opposed to the things I typically read on the Internet, which begin with "no u r a dick" and end with "lol." Now that college is over, I'm finding myself able to take my time with books and bask in them instead of skimming through for the general meaning and key points for that big Sense and Sensibility test on Wednesday.
Another book that I finished was Seven Hill City by B. Thompson Stroud. In it, Brooks is a bulimic twenty-something who has been in love with an angelic woman (named Aranea Cavatica) who has been present at all the times Brooks needed her most--namely the funerals of his family and friends. The character deals with issues often intertwining his love, his lust, his loss of faith, his eating disorder, and professional wrestling.
I've read Stroud's work before in much smaller doses (on the Interwebs) and enjoyed it thoroughly. Every time I see one of his pieces about wrestling--or baseball--I am initially hesitant because those things generally annoy me and bore me to tears respectively. However, despite the specialized content, the themes and feelings are more often than not universal, and I enjoy them through to the end due to the craftsmanship. Sufficed to say, I was expecting some decent writing out of the deal in spite of the blurb's promise of pro-wrestling. I got just that--decent writing.
The author is great with dialogue, and I think it's the book's strong suit. There is some pop-culture sprinkled throughout and oftentimes a writer will come off sounding like "Hey you guys! Look! I am funny!," but Stroud provides just the right amount and walks the line with ease. The characterization is also well done. Some of the characters seem mildly autobiographical (Brooks and Aranea, judging by Stroud's Internet writings), but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Each character has a depth and uniqueness that makes them real to the reader regardless of where they came from initially.
If I had to pick favorite portions, they would be: the scene in which Brooks is nearly winged by a car (for its incredible desription); Brooks' night shift at the grocery store (which borders from hilarious to romantic to heart-wrenching within its pages); the aftermath of a second car accident; and the seemingly unnecessary introduction of a new character towards the end of the book (which effortlessly ties together the A-story and the B-story in such a neat little package that it made the writer in me jealous).
The book isn't without its problems. Stroud has a tendency to shift formats throughout the book. One chapter may have any number of small sections punctuated by quotes or Bible verses, and the next may be a straightforward narrative. This tends to work for me in the right places--see the aforementioned "new character" chapter--but didn't thrill me at each instance, and seemed to be there just to experiment with some new style.
Also, a little too much was "wrapped up" in the book for my tastes. The Aranea Cavatica story finishes leaving little to the imagination. Without spoiling the main "twist" (as it were) of the book, I'll just say that it's one of those things I would have liked to be a little more open-ended. Still, the ending provided gives one of the best scenes in the book involving two grilled cheese sandwiches on Opposites Day, so I'm not sure where to fall on this. I'll probably read it again later with the full context of the book in my head from the beginning. Definitely worth picking up and reading, especially if you've ever dealt with crises of faith (come on, we all have), eating disorders, or Stroud's prior writings.
Speaking of Stroud's prior writings, Progressive Boink updated yesterday with three all-new articles. You have your choice of funny/meaningful, funny/social-commentary, and funny/funny. As always, their work is top-notch and some of the best on the Internet, so check it out. Read it now (and every Tuesday forevermore or until they become disillusioned with it again).
For more awesome links, I refer you to my right and all the new little buttons that are up. Review the World is great, and head-writer Brian is the coolest and best connection I've ever made on the Internet. Additionally, his writing is always fun and funny without being snarky or mean-spirited, which is incredibly refreshing to find on the Internet.
Also available for clickage, X-Entertainment. Rarely updated with articles these days, but also great.
I'm not going to make a habit of stuff like this just because I'd run the risk of becoming a linkdump again, which was too time consuming and no fun. But those buttons are always on the right, just begging for you to click on them and find better content than you're reading right this second. So jump to it, friend.