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Likely Stories

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Keir Graff and editors from Booklist's adult and youth departments write candidly about books, book reviewing, and the publishing industry

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006 4:55 pm
Snooker in the Redemption Factory
Posted by: Keir Graff

I had read just three more pages in Sam Millar’s The Redemption Factory last night when, lo and behold, Paul Goodman says, “I don’t think I could allow any woman to come between me and snooker. It’s what I live for.”

And 40 pages later, Millar writes, referencing a tournament that we’ve just learned Goodman will be playing in: “Two years it had taken him to reach this stage of his carefully planned career.”

So there is snooker in the book. Sort of. I don’t want to lecture Mr. Millar, but if a character lives for snooker, and has been planning his career in such detail that one phase of it requires two years’ work, we should probably know about it in the first 100 pages. Even if the lack of emphasis is meant to suggest something about the character’s aspiration (for example, that he’s not as serious about it as he thinks he is or claims to be), we should still probably know that, too.

Of course, the book isn’t about snooker. It’s about Goodman’s hellish job in the slaughterhouse, and Goodman’s growing attraction to one of the weird sisters, and – here’s a plot development: someone just witnessed a murder.

It makes sense that a writer with such strong and idiosyncratic use of language as Millar would also have a plot whose shape doesn’t seem overly familiar so far. But I do hope it all pulls together in some clever yet inevitable-feeling way. So far the book has a dreamlike logic, in that it makes sense within its own world but if you tried to explain it to someone you might find them staring at you blankly. Dreams are notorious for not doing all the groundwork of developing character and plot. And then there’s the whole phenomenon of one person looking like another but still you know it’s the first person, not the person they happen to look like in your dream, for example if a very good friend in real life just happens to look and talk exactly like Eric Cartman from South Park in your dream, even down to the fact that he’s two-dimensional, as if made from animated construction paper, when everyone else looks like regular people. Not that that’s ever happened to me – I’m just saying.

But I digress. Anyway, should find out how The Redemption Factory ends tonight. I’d better: the review is due tomorrow.

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3 Responses to “Snooker in the Redemption Factory”
  1. Raymond Hart Says:

    Interesting read!

  2. Likely Stories » Blog Archive » Redeeming Qualities Says:

    [...] « Snooker in the Redemption Factory You Don’t Talk about <em>My</em> Country Like That » [...]

  3. Likely Stories » Blog Archive » Redeeming Qualities Says:

    [...] As I wrote yesterday and the day before, I have mixed feelings about this book. And this is one of those moments when reviewing a book feels about as easy as juggling hamsters. Sometimes I’ll read a book that I don’t like at all but that I do believe has an audience. If I write an entirely negative review, I might be keeping the book from the people it’s meant for; if I write a postive review, I’ve done something worse, which is to sign my name to something I don’t believe. [...]

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