Monday, February 20, 2012

One more chance (because I checked out so many)

Book: The Flamenco Academy

Author: Sarah Bird

Publication: 2006 (Knopf)

Pages: 381

The history and tradition of flamenco is fascinating. The flimsy tale of romantic obsession Bird uses as an excuse to write about flamenco is not.

Her characters are interesting: a shy young girl who discovers flamenco as a way to a tortured guitarist’s heart, her best friend who needs attention in the same way of oxygen, the guitarist himself as he wrestles with mysteries of his identity that could make or break him in the flamenco world. They’re human enough to recognize and empathize with, and they provide crucial insights into a rarified subculture as outsiders who gain access throughout the tale.

Or that’s what they do in my head, when I really want to like this opera-on-page. In reality, there are no actual examples of them doing this, as in you have to take the narrative voice’s word for practically every character development. It baffles me why Bird thought it was a good idea to pull back the camera and use so much exposition. SO MUCH EXPOSITION, y’all. I want her to go full-out Gypsy fairy tale for this thing or add some fucking DIALOUGE between the shy girl and the minimal amount of people she’d have to interact with to become as good at flamenco as she is.

But Bird’s writing fluctuates. At least three people tell dramatic tales of their origins and secrets that take up chapters at a time. I wish she would’ve just expanded those until they touched each other and made a narrative that mimics flamenco’s mysterious, overly emotional depth framed by traditional structure.

Everything was harped on so fucking much, too, like she thought the reader would forget every few pages. And so many metaphors to describe the dance and the music. SO MUCH.

Sigh. I checked out Bird’s The Boyfriend School and The Mommy Club in this same batch because I love The Yokota Officer’s Club so much, but I can’t do it. They’re due back this week and I’ll take the gamble that I won’t regret reading her take on getting boyfriends back or surrogate motherhood.    

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