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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

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Visible Empire
Hannah Pittard
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Robertson Davies
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Monkeys - Susan Minot There are writers who make mistakes. If their words were a house, some measurements might be askew, some paint could be found on the carpet, perhaps a door doesn't open just right. It's bound to happen, and readers should be forgiving of those writers who blunder occasionally.There are also writers who make mistakes. Big ones. They pour the foundation for their house without noticing their own feet are right in the middle of it. They bury themselves in their stupidity, and one can't help but scream, "How could you not see that?"Clearly, I'm setting up Monkeys as the later example. Overall, the stories are okay; they're not that intriguing, but they fit together nicely. The characters are numerous and there are a couple with potential, but they're not properly developed. The whole thing is mildly touching, yet leaves more to be desired. Truthfully, Monkeys didn't have to be a bad book--oh, but there's the author, burying herself in the very first story.The opening story, "Hiding," is told from the first person perspective of Sophie ("Caitlin is the oldest and she's eleven. I'm next, then Delilah, then the boys.") Okay, so we have a book from the perspective of one of the children. Fine. The next story, "Thanksgiving Day" is outside of Sophie ("For Sophie, the best thing was..."). So now we're in third. Still fine. There's no reason an author cannot switch perspective, especially in a collection of stories. So after reading two stories, the precedent has been set--each story will have a unique, or at least rotating, point-of-view.But the next story and the next and the next are all in third. Every story from that second one on is set in third. This sort of thing could be acceptable if it made sense, artistically speaking, but it doesn't here. What seems likely to have happened was that the author at some point changed her point-of-view, but failed to make the change in the first story. And how did no one catch this? Honestly, I don't know. It seems like it would have caught someone's eye. I mean, how exactly does one not notice the architect cemented to the basement floor of their house? Perhaps they noticed, but just didn't care to exert themselves for a design which wasn't that interesting in the first place.