Thursday, October 8, 2009

"Demons Hide Their Faces" by A. A. Attanasio

Let me start this entry out by saying that not everyone can be Charles de Lint, and, A. A. Attanasio, you are most certainly not Charles de Lint. This is not a bad story by any stretch. The cyclical structure of the story in which the later parts of the story are told interspersed with the earlier segments is actually quite clever and plays into the ending quite well. It won't make any sense until you're almost done the story, but once it does, it strikes you as pretty clever. I don't particularly have anything against the story itself either. The idea that demons steal book to gain power is interesting, to say the least, and Attanasio's portrayal of Hell is nothing if not original.

What I do have against this story is Attanasio's prose style. His prose is just too, well, crowded. When he could say something in a few words, he instead opts for a whole heap of them, choosing complex and obscure terms when simpler ones would do. Now, there could be an argument here that this is done for the sake of poetic style; that Attanasio's choice of words are calculated to bring a more vibrant image to the reader's mind. However, it comes accross more like he's saying "Hey, I know a lot of obscure words! Watch me you them in sentences!" The end effect for me is a distancing from the story itself.

This is especially concerning when the first sentence suffers from this problem. Attanasio opens the story with:
Winterset in Egypt beside a rotting canal at Sidi Bishr, with the little, ceramic hashish pipe in her freckled hand, a thin thread of palpitant smoke twisting in the air before her, the professor faced her student and informed him seriously and with hollow impersonality, "The most avid collectors of books are demons. But they want only the old texts The oldest texts."

Not only does this sentence run on and on, its use of words like "palpitant" (pulsating) and "Winterset" (which, is not defined in any dictionary I can find, and is not "the professor's" name, so I can only assume it means "in the winter") distract the reader. At least they distracted me. The end effect is that I became more interested in deciphering Attanasio's strange vocabulary than the story itself, which I think is a major failing for any piece of prose.

No comments:

Post a Comment