on February 10, 2010
This new novel can't quite figure out what it wants to be. A roman a clef about the Washington Post, A spy thriller? A technospy novel? A war novel about women? A chronicle of sad people and their inability to love? Too many stories, most of them highly improbable, are set in motion in a slow, barely moving narrative, which winds it's way through incessant digressions, to a resolution without climax, or satisfaction.
Some examples: A military airplane crashes in Washington DC and is covered up by a secret spy outfit for 18 months? Not after 9/11.
A cub reporter finds out that the managing editor of the Post frequents pre-teen prostitutes, and doesn't tell? Not in this media world.
An Iranian scientist escapes Iran, and then goes back because he is being followed? Why?
The writing is overdone, elliptical, and without any real sparkle. The character digressions are incessant, but they don't really lead us to understanding, or to care. The plot moves so slowly that I had to keep going back to find out if I missed something. I didn't.
on March 12, 2010
An interesting comment from a friend on Facebook sent me rushing to the bookstore. I'm a veteran of 32 years in the news business. This sounded like a fun read about how phony the news business can be and what puppets most reporters are these days. What a major, major disappointment. Adams' style, if you can call it a style, is to write in sentences that too often make no sense at all. I found myself having to read paragraphs two and three times in an effort to figure out what was being said. After struggling through a few dozen pages, I was tempted to trash the book. Instead, I decided to force myself to finish it just to see if I might be able to figure out how to interpret her cryptic writing. I never did. Even after reading the last several pages a few times, I still have no idea what was happening at the end of this bizarre attempt at storytelling. If you're thinking of buying this thing, don't. Contact me and I'll give you my copy.
The author has, I feel, some important things to say. Sadly, in this medium of the novel, she didn't say them with clarity and effectiveness. She has material for a good plot that could captivate her readers. But her prose gets in the way, markedly.
This seems to want to be an experimental novel. The prose reminds me of a hyperactive adolescent jumbling incongruent details and cryptic allusions into her sentences--to sound, I think, perhaps, like a wanna-be Virginia Woolf. In short, this novel is badly overwritten--almost to the point of being frequently incomprehensible.
Some of the other reviewers seem, to me, bedazzled by the writer's Pulitzer Prize credentials and heap praise on this work. I'm sorry, but my response is: you've got to be kidding. Don't get me wrong, I think the lady has some interesting ideas and some ability with words. But if I could, I would sign her up for one to three years concentrated training in fiction writing. She likely deserved that Pulitzer and is a good investigative reporter; but as a writer of fiction, she needs guidance. She needs knowledge of the craft.
The author constantly throws the reader into situations without real grounding as to what's happening, who it's happening to, and where it's happening. The author will introduce several characters often providing little more than their names (except for a lot of internal monologues), and as a result they become confusing. The point of view is frequently "floating," undefined or vague. She seems to have bought wholesale the contemporary poor notion that it's best to keep the reader in the dark most of the time. So the "story" tumbles from one barely understood scene to another. Worse: I should say, from one off-the-wall, partially understood and meandering sentence to another.
My guess is that this writer is trying to impress someone, maybe herself, maybe certain literary critics. But one thing's for sure, she didn't write this for her readers. They were last in her considerations, if they made it at all. The novel borders on the unreadable.
on November 4, 2012
This book is ultra-highbrow, and while I consider myself equal to the next man intellectually,this book starts with a disaster in the midst, then takes you somewhere totally different, after the disaster occurs. I was disappointed because I'd had this book in my wish
list for so long and finally decided I'd waited long enough. Truth be told, i used it as a filler because the sequel to "Shantaram" was due out on October 4th and they changed the date
at the last minute to March. That could have had something to do with my lack of patience. It
just wasn't for me.
From the very beginning, I wasn't sure what Lorraine Adams intended to offer her readers in "The Room and the Chair". Technothriller? Expose' of dirty works in government and journalism? Experimental fiction? Conspiracy theory? Epic poem?
Trying to figure it out is exhausting, as the story line careens from character to character, thread to thread, location to location. At the start of the book, an F-16 pilot moves in short succession from crippled airplane to parachute to hanging in a tree to Walter Reed hospital after her plane crashes into the Potomac River and a night editor tries to make sense of the initial fragmentary report. Their lives intersect throughout the book and are presented in a rapid fire series of venue and character shifts beginning in the first pages and continuing throughout. I kept waiting for the moment that would connect these disparate threads together, and was left disappointed.
Adding to the reader's burden is the style of prose in this book, which is distractingly spare. Adams frequently leaves out definite and indefinite articles, and sometimes entire phrases are incomplete. At one point a character is described as wanting to "take the Lord's name"...presumably as shorthand for "take the Lord's name in vain" (rather than taking on a name change), but we shouldn't be left to figure this out.
If you're considering reading "The Room and the Chair", impatient readers might want to make sure their own room has one other item: a wastebasket. Unless you have a strong appetite for terse, highly stylized fiction, this book may not be for you.
I was completely convinced that the last scene in this book would be the protagonist waking up in an institution. I actually thought this was being hinted at throughout the book by the plot contradictions and paranoid conspiracy.
The story is, mostly, that the CIA is covering up some dastardly plot (I won't spoil it), and the protagonist, a female pilot, accidentally encounters this American Government underworld. The story takes you from the US Capitol to the ancient city of Bagram, Afghanistan. Many subplots and details begin to flesh out, every few pages, and seem promising... but they never really work together or flesh out well.
In fact, it's so difficult to attempt to reconcile this story that I have to conclude it was rushed together. Writing a novel should involve a lot of reworking various elements, cutting bad elements that just aren't working, etc. This didn't happen with this story. The woman rushes through an incredibly strange world of political intrigue that doesn't make sense.
It would have been much funnier, and somewhat believable, had she ended the story in a straight jacket, screaming that her medicine was trying to talk to her.
Humor aside, this is not worth a read, and most readers probably will find this too cumbersome and annoying to complete.
on May 8, 2010
There are times in my life (usually when working with math) when I get confused and have to hold on to the edge of the table to know which side is up. I held on to the edge of the table a lot while reading this book. It was as if Ms. Adams had several ideas for a story but wasn't sure which one to use - so she used them all.
We start with a pilot (a woman named Mary with all the media attention that a woman almost losing her life would bring) crashing into the Potomac at Washington on a dark and stormy night. All right it wasn't stormy, but it was supposed to be dark (Is that what Black Ops really means). I have been to DC many times as I have relatives there. I don't think I have ever seen it so dark that a fighter plane crashing into the river near the Lincoln Memorial wouldn't be noticed. So, the pilot is supposed to not understand how her instruments went haywire so she crashed. While she is in the hospital, a group of spooks in black clothes, clean up the site, including uprooting the tree which broke our pilot's fall and flattening the site without anyone noticing it. May I point out that something like a bazillion joggers go through this area along the Potomac every day, and this is a City where no one, even under oath, seems to be able to keep a secret. After Mary is released from the hospital, she and her wing man are shuffled off to Bagram where the Wing Man and two other members of the staff on the Base fall over a cliff, one killed; two injured. Our "girl" is saved because, as a girl, she walks slower. So, everyone gets shipped back to Washington.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we have been introduced to a man (CIA?) who had the pilot's instruments messed up to test a secret weapon. There are also three competing members of the newspaper hierarchy (I think one of them is supposed to be Bob Woodward's alter ego as he helped break Watergate and he writes lots of books for which he hides information until he is ready to use it in a book. This, unfortunately, keeps his paper (The Washington Post?) from breaking a lot of scoops. Then there are two of their wives, Mabel and Martina, with similiar names just to keep us a bit more confused. These two are sterotypes of the newspaper careerist and the former newspaper careerist who is now a stay at home mom. They should both be talking with therapists. We also have a CIA asset in the Middle East who is either dead or not dead.
The CIA Operative needs to prove that his asset is really really really dead, not just nearly nearly nearly dead. He has to go to Iran to check this out himself and guess who he picks to act the part of his wife. In order not to give away the surprise in this story, I will let you guess. At any rate, the pair go through with their assignment, and we make it to the denouement. By the way, could someone who reads this book please write me and explain the ending to me.
Ms. Adams has such great credentials that I thought I was a little dim in not being able to follow this story without flipping back and forth to check facts. Once again, I think she had several ideas for stories. Much of this plot is reminiscent of recent news stories, and no one trusts the government any longer so it is easy to believe that a Washington insider would know what she is talking about. This is my first Lorraine Adams book, but I'm not sure I will try another. Still that is each person's choice.
The first 2 pages of the book had me hooked. An extremely exciting start even though it took me a couple of times through those pages to be sure what was happening.
After those first 2 pages, I was lost. Continued introduction of new characters who did nothing, leaving parts of the story behind only to catch up to it later, this author has talent but uses it wastefully.
I read this book without ever getting an idea of what was going on. Not that individual scenes were difficult to understand because the writer is wonderfully talented, but nothing ever tied the parts together. Chapter after chapter I went back and reread to try to gather my mind around the story. I did that because Lorraine Adams has a fascinating way of expressing herself so I wanted to like this work.
I'm sorry, I just couldn't find a way to gain any reading pleasure. My recommendation would be to skip this one and wait for L. Adams to gain some experience in how to tell a story.
on May 21, 2016
A combination of stream of consciousness POV. first person POV. omniscient POV, all too frequently changed, and too little demarcated. Book contains passages where you don't want to put it down, and others where you want to give up and put it down permanently. If you don't read it straight through, you'll get lost. Needed less friendly editing.
Not a particularly enticing title and this is one book about which I'd say abandon the maxim of don't judge a book by its cover. If I could describe this book with one word, it would be 'lugubrious'. It is meandering and the prose is clunky. Some authors might get away with paragraph upon paragraph of digression but with this writing, the author's best bet is to keep the plot moving along quickly enough that the reader doesn't notice.
I hate to post a review when I haven't finished the book- but I suppose that sort of says it all right there. I received this book through the Vine program and even the fact that it was free doesn't win any points. If anything, I feel cheated for the time I spent reading this.
I think this book could have been significantly better with proper editing and I feel for Adams that she did not have a decent editor looking out for her.
My advice? Skip this one entirely.