Dance & Drink & Screw

Because There's Nothing Else To Do

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Alligator Munch
Alligator by Maurice Raymond
Alligator, a photo by Maurice Raymond on Flickr.
I'm reading at the moment Swamplandia! with verybadhorse. I've read until the end of Chapter 6 and this is what i think so far.

Meeeeeeh! I'm finding it hard to get into this VERY tall tale set in Florida. It's about an amusement park called Swamplandia! that centres on all things alligator-related - their display, performances, wrestles and printed paraphernalia. The family that run the park are a bunch of oddballs with "unique" personalities and jobs in the park: Ava the narrator who is also the youngest daughter and dreams of one day being an alligator wrestler like her mother once was; Oscie the eldest daughter, who suddenly enters puberty and falls in love with boys and the paranormal; their father, The Chief, in his embarrassing head wear; and Kiwi the eldest son, a bookworm who runs away from home because he'd like to attend a regular high school rather than suffer home schooling and being stuck on Swamplandia!'s island (only reached by a rickety ferry from the mainland.)

I think the reason why I'm finding it hard to care is because it reminds me too much of Geek Love, in the sense that the oddity of characterisation and setting is meant to be good enough to supplant a good story. And there is a good story in here, somewhere - but I just haven't seen it yet. In these first chapters we get the introduction of a rival amusement park - The World of Darkness - that steals of all Swamplandia!'s clientele and is the biggest potential for narrative drive. It's to this world that Kiwi runs away to and gets a job as a janitor.

The older I get, the less patience I have for narrative that's "quirky" and full of metaphors that only work half the time. That's one of the problems with Swamplandia! I think tall tales are a risk for the writer - it can so easily go wrong. Someone like Jim Dodge does them well (though not all the time.)

I will persist with the reading until page 100, which is when I usually decide if I'll continue with a novel or give up on it.

So verybadhorse, what are your thoughts?! Am I off mark? Or do you agree with me?

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