Category Archives: Books

Finally Finished Reading “Hell to Pay”

Last night I was determined to finish this book and had to fight through the last ten pages, just as I’d fought through nearly three quarters of it over the past three months.

Between it being just a pointless book and my general state of exhaustion from living under the tyrannical rule of a toddler, getting through this book has been a battle. The good news is this was the last book in the series and I‘m now free of Chesney Armstruther and his accidental war between heaven and hell. (And dinosaur people.) The bad news is that when I finished it I couldn’t quite believe it was over, and continued flipping pages through the author acknowledgements as if there was some literary equivalent of the Marvel post credits scene that would make it all worth it.

Realizing there wasn’t I had to ask, “That’s it?” And not in a good way. Not in a, “oh no, that’s all? I need twelve more books to give me a satisfying level of closure about all of these complete and well written characters I’ve grown to love as family, and satisfying storylines and character arcs we’ve all been through together.”

Nope. It was more of a, “that’s really how you’re going to wrap up this bullshit? By completely negating the last three books you dragged me through over the span of two pages and then having a picnic?”

The author spent more time explaining dinosaur people than he did writing a proper conclusion to this three book story, not to mention how misguided and insulting his attitude towards individuals with autism comes across. I lost count of how many times he reminded the reader that Chesney had been “cured” and now was “normal”. But that’s ok, since that was all changed in the blink of an eye at the very end of the book, along with every major point in the story until that moment, when Chesney was autistic again when it served a purpose.

So, pretty much the best thing about this series was the cover art.

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Dearborn Street Sketch

Looking for something else entirely, I went down the rabbit hole of my external hard drive, which had been a labyrinthine dumping ground of folders and files and enough potential writing and design projects to keep me busy for years if I had the time to organize it all into something manageable and accessible.

While fishing around, I came across this Photoshop sketch that I’d worked up off a photo or Google maps shot three or four years ago in a similar onslaught of nostalgia.

I’d wanted to put together maybe a dozen or so sketches like this to breakup a story I was trying to figure out. I had a short story that I was working off of and wanted to make it into something else, something longer.

I had come up with this idea after reading Edouard Levé’s novel, “Suicide”. It was his last book, as shortly after turning in the completed manuscript to his editor, Levé took his own life. The novel is interesting as it’s narrated to the main character, essentially turning the reader into the victim of the title suicide. It’s haunting and puzzling, infectious and entirely successful in calling into question what it means to exist.

I didn’t suddenly want to write every book I had in my head in this style forever now, but there are two ideas that have followed me around for several years that lend themselves to the style. Oddly enough, both deal with death, just as Levé’s work did, although in my case, one is a violent death at another’s hand, and the other is a tragic accidental one.

I wonder what about this writing style, this voice, that lends itself to tragic subject material? The ability to so easily accuse and question within the unfolding of the narrative? The way in which it immediately makes the reader a character, and can borrow their own prejudices and experiences, their fears and doubts, without needing to put those words on the page? Both ideas are a collection of photographs and written scenes, but are barely more then bones and bullet points, and a few odd fragments. I’m not sure how the stories will work out yet, or whether they will at all. For now, at least for this story, this is all I have.

Reading Howard’s End, Forever

Howard’s End: Spent a Week There One Night

Yesterday Starz premiered a new miniseries adapting E.M. Forster’s eternal classic, “Howard’s End.” Eternal as a descriptor is not used here in a positive way. Don’t be fooled by the title, this book never actually ends.

Howard's End by E.M. Forster Penguin Classics Edition from Official Penguin Classics PublishingTo celebrate the premiere, Penguin Classics posted to Instagram, “Don’t mind us while we spend our Saturday re-reading Howards End for the millionth time before the new mini-series premieres on Starz tomorrow night 📖🌿 Raise your hand if you plan to watch! 🙋🏼‍♀️🙋🏻‍♀️🙋🏾‍♀️

As a refresher, I just tried reading the plot synopsis on Wikipedia that could probably be published as a novella in itself. It alone felt longer than any of James Patterson’s BookShots.

It’s the first time on Wikipedia that I haven’t gotten pulled down the rabbit’s hole, that was how needlessly boring and unending the plot of this book feels. For a novel that’s only around 340 pages, I can’t imagine it taking less time to read than “War and Peace”, which is four times the page count, give or take. I can’t imagine it taking less time to read than the Napoleonic Wars themselves, for that matter. Of course, I’ve been reading “Hell to Pay” for three months, so what do I know?

Here’s an actual short summary: nothing happens and continues to not happen in a mindnumbingly, Edwardian-dressed, ‘Groundhog Day’ sort of way, punctuated with the revelations that Henry Wilcox has ruined the lives of several women across a few decades, just so it seems like there’s a reason to keep reading.

There isn’t. And yet, if multiple adaptations are any indication, we do.

Once a year or so I wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat and ask myself if I ever actually finished that book.

I try to remember what it was about, or anything definitive about the plot, what was the last thing I remember, even just a character’s name; anything substantial at all about the story or characters to anchor my fragile midnight reality upon. Then I remind myself that no one ever has finished it.

EM Forester has defied the laws of time and space in E. M. Forster by Dora Carrington, oil on canvas, 1920writing this novel. ‘Howard’s End’ is a literary wormhole, a black hole of indecent and apathetic people that attempts to repackage itself in a redeeming bow when Henry finally does something not awful, and we’re all still reading it.

Somewhere, no doubt, despite claims it was completed in 1910, Forster is still writing it, his own picture of Dorian Gray on the printed page; stealing the souls of those naïve enough to believe the could ever find resolution in its story, and keeping him alive throughout the turning pages of history. But is a cursed existence worth experiencing? And aren’t we all cursed now, from the moment we laid eyes on that damned title page?

This isn’t the millionth time you’re reading it, poor Penguin, it’s the first. You’ve never finished reading it, and you never will. None of us will. We are all Henry Wilcoxes now, forever repeating the same mistakes, unable to learn, to change our attitude with time, or consider others as we push blindly forward in our righteous, vainglorious manner. We turn the page, believing we are nearing the end. But we never do. We will always be reading it. For us, “Howard’sEnd” never will.

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