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Updates: No Nightstand This Month

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Well here we are staring at a freshly minted October and I am shamefacedly empty-handed. Ordinarily I’d be waxing enthusiastically about what literary treasures I am about to discover in the coming month via a photo from my nightstand, but this month that is not meant to be.

It’s not that I’m not reading anything, I am. It’s just that it’s not a book I would want anyone else to read. It’s written by a false religious teacher and I’m reading it to be able to better dialogue with someone. Unfortunately it’s also quite long so I hope I can get through it before the next Nightstand rolls around.

As a followup to last month’s Nightstand post, however, I will report that I did finish Five Enchanted Roses. And I even went back and read Wither, the story I had initially decided to skip (at the urging of some thoughtful remarks in the comments). I wish I could say that I came around on this one, but it still missed the mark. There were some wonderful exchanges in the middle between Corwin and Bet, but the rest of the story was just too dark. The beast’s “curse” felt forced and convoluted and the “redemption” at the end just left me shaking my head. I see what the author was trying to go for, but I just couldn’t get on board with it.

I also never warmed up to Rosara and the Jungle King. I mentioned most of the story’s problems in the last post, but suffice it to say that those elements did not go away by the time I made it to the end of the story. Too much animism, too much first person narrator, and the violent scenes were a little too graphic.

Smelling like a rose

On a more positive note, I absolutely adored Wulver’s Rose. In fact, it ended up being my favorite of the entire collection. It had everything that makes for a great story: compelling, sympathetic characters, rich, evocative writing, and a wonderful emotional arc. I loved how noble the beast was in this story and how conflicted, yet good hearted the beauty was. This one also felt (as did Jenelle’s story) as if it truly belonged in a fairy tale collection. It didn’t try to shoehorn some other genre into the beauty and the beast template which was another issue I had with the other stories. The back cover of the novel claimed this collection would help us “rediscover the enchantment” and Wulver’s Rose certainly did that and then some.

As I said before, I really feel bad that I can’t join the club and sing this book’s praises. I will say this, though. Every single writer in this collection, whether I liked their story or not, showed incredible skill and promise. I’d put the craftsmanship displayed in these stories up against anything being put out there by other contemporary authors. All of these writers are extremely gifted. But to be truly worthwhile fiction must shine a light on the good, the true, and the beautiful, and not all of these stories did that to the same degree.

So, no new books this month, but a little update on my reading experiences all the same. Sort of “half” a Nightstand post, I suppose. Hopefully I’ll be back next month with the whole enchilada.

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