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The Funeral, Ruined

L. Timmel Duchamp reviews Paper Cities at Strange Horizons, and doesn't, in truth, like the book at all.

Here's what she says about my story:

Though Ben Peek's "The Funeral, Ruined" is marred by its author's apparently shaky grasp of grammar, his tale concerns an interesting protagonist in an unusual setting, that of a city of crematoria. The narrative is at times disorganized, however, and doesn't quite come together. Because it occasionally gives us very fine sentences, all the clunky ones were especially maddening. How, I wondered, could someone who writes sentences like these—"With hard yanks, she tightly wound the frayed black laces of her boots up. On the right boot she missed a hole, and on the left, two" (p. 177)—also write sentences like this: "Her skin, however, sagged around her jaw, wrinkled over her face, and continued to do so down her neck until it was covered by the brown gown she wore" (p. 180). Given its promise, it's a shame it didn't get a couple of more rewrites before publication.

Occasionally I get reviews like that, and I couldn't begin to tell you why she loved the first line but hated the second--outside the fact that the first is neater--but it's all good. Good and bad, I take it all.




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Oct. 7th, 2008 01:59 am (UTC)
Personally, I prefer the second sentence, although they both seem perfectly fine to me. But if I were to choose between them, the split infinitive in the first sentence ("wound... up") sounds just a little clunky, and it could be argued that it has too many adjectives and adverbs for one sentence.

I wonder, if the reviewer doesn't like sentence two, whether it is something to do with the skin "continuing to do so" in space rather than in time.
Oct. 7th, 2008 03:22 am (UTC)
the real fault of the sentence is i started at the jaw, went to her face, and then the rest of her body. but, y'know, to each their own. i could pick flaws in anything of mine all day long :)
Oct. 7th, 2008 03:55 am (UTC)
1. I quite liked "The Funeral, Ruined". In fact, most of the stories Timmi mentions as being the weakest were, I felt, the strongest stories in the anthology. Obviously, her taste in fiction and my taste in fiction are quite different.
2. "Andretto Walks the King's Way" is not, nor was it ever intended to be, a parable of AIDS. It is a story about the spread of the plague, plain and simple.
3. Andretto's epiphany was not fuzzy nor was it warm. It was horrifying in its irony, if the reader thinks about it for more than a few seconds. People, when you read, think.
4. I have a great deal of respect for Timmi and her writing. I have never received anything other than a scathing review from any reviewer at Strange Horizons, whether for my editorial work or my writing. Why should her review reflect anything other than the Strange Horizons party line?

Sorry if I hijacked your thread, Ben.
Oct. 7th, 2008 04:05 am (UTC)
that's no probs, man.

i doubt there's a party line at strange horizons, though. i did a few reviews for them, and i was pretty much left to my own devices all the way through (for better or worse), so its worth saying.
Oct. 7th, 2008 11:08 am (UTC)
That's good to know. I've just found that, by and large, the Strange Horizons crew doesn't like my work much. But, whatever, I'm not in it to win a popularity contest, so it shouldn't theoretically bother me as much as it does. In the words of Popeye, "I yam what I yam".
Oct. 7th, 2008 04:09 am (UTC)
How dare you write a sentence that wasn't as good as that other sentence! You should have your writer's license revoked!
Oct. 7th, 2008 04:10 am (UTC)
would you like my gun, too?
Oct. 7th, 2008 06:03 am (UTC)
I read the two sentences and wasn't sure which she was saying was the good one until I read your comment underneath!
Oct. 7th, 2008 06:14 am (UTC)
well, i suppose it's entirely possible that she means the other way around...
Oct. 7th, 2008 08:58 am (UTC)
I wondered that too.
Oct. 7th, 2008 12:08 pm (UTC)
well, if it's not clear to you...
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