Tuesday, June 12, 2007

"A Thief in the House of Memory" by Tim Wynne-Jones

Notwithstanding the author having the same combined last names as one of my favourite kids' authors, he is also the current writer-in-residence at the TPL, so I thought I should get out one of his books and read it so if I went to one of his events I could at least look intelligent. It's like going to a job interview and having read at least the one-page corporate bio on a company's website.

It took me about two weeks to actually get around to starting this book. I read the first two pages when I got it out, and then sort of abandoned it to the point where I read an entire book that I almost randomly picked up (the Book of Absinthe) before returning to this one. But yesterday I decided to bite the bullet and get started.

And today I'm writing the review, so clearly it was a one-day read. At only 180 pages and with a light word words per page ratio, this was not a "stay up all nighter". The chapters were short, often four or six pages, though there were a few that were two pages long. That might have been something that kept me going, in a knitting "Just one more row" kind of way. Short chapters certainly make it easy to read while I'm cooking dinner or something like that.

The book is about Declan Steeple, a 16-year-old boy who lives I guess outside of a suburb of Ottawa with his sister, father and father's girlfriend (?). The relationship between the father and Birdie is a little vague, for the reader and for Dec. Dec's mother abandoned the family six years ago, and an incident where a thief dies in an apparent accident after breaking into the old, abandoned family home (they live in a new house down the hill from it) brings questions to the surface of Dec's mind about what happened to his mother.

Nothing really happened after the "inciting event". Most of the transformation and conflict was inside Dec's head, and in conversation with him and his father and step-mother. There wasn't much action at all, really. But it mostly worked, I thought. It wasn't boring, and Dec's young friends seemed totally unrealistic to me (it was like the prodigies from about eight different towns all wound up at one school), but I finished it.

And then I went to the author's event, and I was totally glad I'd read the book. This one took him 13 drafts, and he sent the fifth one to his editor, so I guess he struggled with it pretty hugely. He got the idea while thinking while washing the dishes.

The event was interesting. I've not been to anything like this in a very long time. There were about 60 people, and maybe 10 of them men (why am I fascinated by the demographics of things like this?) The youngest person was probably 12 or 13, the average was probably my age, there were some very old people, most of the room looked to be caucasian. One woman was way more talkative than the rest of us, and in a way that I thought was vaguely irrelevant. She had read a collection of the author's short stories, and seemed to quite like one of them, and asked over and over where he got the idea for one of the characters. When she finally got the answer to that question, she asked whether she should get a mac or a PC when her computer needs replacing. OMG who cares.

The whole thing didn't exactly inspire me to go home and edit, which is probably what I ought to do. But, it did give me a bit of optimism about my future as a writer.

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