Monday, November 7, 2011

Sorry, Michael, You Know I Love You and Your New Book, But I Just Had to Laugh

You need to watch this “trailer” put together by Ignatius Press for Michael O’Brien’s new mega-novel, The Father’s Tale, which I previously reviewed here. I have a great and grudging admiration for the book, which is powerful like a nuclear bomb: it’s so big and long and weighty that if you stay the course, you will be moved, the way Hiroshima was moved. But “the course” is 1,072 pages.

If you read my review, you’ll see that, in fact, I ended being several ways inspired by The Father’s Tale. However, the video reminds me of all that’s bloated and misleading and suspect about O’Brien’s book.

Bloated: Imagine some intern at Ignatius Press pulling together three minutes of stock images of London, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Moscow, the Trans-Siberian Railroad, and the Forbidden City, not to mention random sailboats, a spooky tunnel, prison doors s-l-o-w-l-y closing, and what looks like an escapee from “The Shawshank Redemption” slopping through a swamp, all to create the illusion that this book is somehow as tight and gripping as a 90-minute hit thriller. If only . . .

Misleading: Most of the copy in the trailer is about a father’s search for a son. Most of the book is about a father getting lost himself and, OK, let’s admit it, for the last 400 pages, basically forgetting about his son, when the father stumbles first into a love affair, then into what feels like a discarded Tom Clancy plot.

Suspect: When the trailer flashes excerpts from the four blurbs on the back of the book, it reminds me that each of the blurbs is either what Mark Twain called a stretcher or else a hedge.

For example, a Jesuit (names withheld to protect the innocent) writes, “I believe this novel will merit inclusion in any list of the world’s great novels.” Which leads me to think the Jesuit hasn’t read much fiction.

A certain well-known Catholic professor and author says The Father’s Tale is “like a thousand sunrises.” To which I say, well, yeah, one sunrise per page.

And a certain esteemed convert and literary critic offers that O’Brien’s “achievement here is, I think, titanic.” I recognize that I think as a poetic mannerism, a gentlemanly pause before throwing the big adjective titanic around. But doesn’t it make the praise sound noncommittal?

The one virtue of the trailer is that it will give Hollywood a leg up if a producer ever wants to make a movie of The Father’s Tale. Unfortunately—and Lordy how we do need good Catholic books and films—the odds of that movie being made are about 1,072 to 1. 

1 comment:

  1. Unfortunately Ignatius Press seems to do this frequently i.e. put out a video giving the impression that the book being promoted is a pacy thriller. Then you buy it and read it, and it turns out to be a leisurely ramble.


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