08 June 2008

Frames of reference

In 1977, I saw the movie Turning Point. Shirley MacLaine and Anne Bancroft might have been the stars for most people, but Mikhail Baryshnikov and Leslie Browne were all I saw in that movie. I know full-well that the dancing was enhanced by camera angles and lighting, but I was absolutely enthralled.

Later that year, I saw Gelsey Kirkland and the American Ballet Theater perform Swan Lake. (Baryshnikov was out sick the night I was there.) Kirkland was as fantastic as Baryshnikov had been in the movie. No camera angles or movie lighting needed. I was once again enthralled -- even though I remember Kirkland landing un-ballet-like on her butt during one of her exits.

Thus began a decade when I saw a lot of dance. And loved most of it. And found nearly all of it interesting.

There was another performance of Swan Lake, a few years later, that helped me learn how good Gelsey Kirkland and the ABT were. A well-reviewed local company performed. The music was recorded, not live. The dancers were probably well-rehearsed and dutifully trained. But there was no life in the performance. Neither the dancers nor the recording of a famous orchestra could come close to what I loved about dance.

Books, Ken, books! Remember?

Oh, yes, books. Banker Mary gave me Turquoise Girl by Aimée and David Thurlo for Christmas. A couple months back, I got around to reading it. I was hesitant because last July I'd read and written about the Turlo's book, Red Mesa. I wasn't pleased with it.

One of the reasons I hadn't liked it was probably the inevitable comparisons with the novels of Tony Hillerman. The Turlos and Hillerman write about Navajo police officers and the desert southwest of Dinétah. The comparisons are all over the cover of Turquoise Girl. Obviously the publisher thinks that hooking on to the Hillerman name is worthwhile.

If I'd never seen Gelsey Kirkland and ABT do Swan Lake, I might have appreciated the local company and their tape recording. If I'd never read Hillerman, I might have liked the Thurlo's books a bit more.

But maybe not. After page 25, I stopped remembering the typos and the awful word choices. Did these people not have an editor? or a proofreader? Don't they know that spell-check won't tell them that "thought" is not a substitute for "though?" And somebody ought to tell them about pacing. Speeding up narration and shortening sentences as the climax approaches is appropriate. But doing that in the middle of the book, only to slow down the story telling and then waltzing into the climax is not fun. It's rather like riding the downhill runs of the roller coaster with the emergency brake on.

I said after the first Thurlo book that I wouldn't go back to the library for another. The next time I have a hankering to read about Navajo police officers and the high desert, I'll reread a Hillerman.

Other opinions?

No comments: