Chapter 2 Books Blog
Didn't know quite what to make of this when I won it from Goodreads' First Reads program (and it finally arrived). Using numbers, math, statistics, big data to analyze literature? But as I read through it, I became more and more fascinated. Blatt's data size is huge - thousands of books, millions of words - and the statistics and conclusions he draws from it are compelling, if occasionally lacking in context. Just by using the prevalence of the words "the" and "and" (number of uses per 10,000 words) he is able to predict authorship (in head-to-head comparisons between two writers) 83% of the time. Amazing. But more than just statistics, the book delves into the differences between male and female authors, British and U.S. writers, word counts, sentence lengths, and more. (This is the first time I've ever seen a formula used to determine "grade level" for a book - not based on content as one might have assumed, but words per sentence, syllables per word, etc.) Anyone who knows me knows I'm fascinated by lists, and Blatt includes quite a few that I'll return to. He lists the 50 most popular books of classic literature written by men and women (compiled from a number of different such lists) and I found that I'd read 45/50 of the novels written by men, but only 13/50 of the ones written by women. That tells me something about myself, not just the literature. As I was getting close to the end, I started to think how useful this book could be in a creative writing course. There's certainly plenty here to make one think about one's own writing.
I hadn't read anything by Daniel Wallace before, though I remember liking the movie Big Fish, based on one of his previous novels. Extraordinary Adventures is the story of Edsel Bronfman, a quirky, 34-year-old loner who goes to work and visits his starting-to-fall-into-dementia mother, and not much else. Bronfman collects pens, and that may be the most interesting thing about him. One day he gets a call from a company called Extraordinary Adventures, offering him a free trip to a resort, but he needs to bring a companion with him. And that starts Bronfman off on his own adventures (far more ordinary than extraordinary - the irony of the title is not lost), as this 34-year-old virgin attempts to find a girlfriend. The book itself is quirky, fun, and I found Bronfman an endearing character, albeit one who struck way too close to home for me at times. I felt like I was - or could have been - Bronfman. I have to say I really understood Bronfman - his actions, his thoughts, his motivations - as he dealt with the people, new and old, in his life. The ending was perhaps a bit disappointing, but probably couldn't have happened any other way.
As I read this novel, I kept vacillating between a 4- and 5-star rating. (And before embarking on my review, I read a few of the 1-, 2-, and 3-star reviews on Goodreads to see if I'd missed something. I didn't.) This is a pretty basic psychological thriller with some maybe kind of stock characters, but it's well written. I found the idea of the "final girls" pretty clever and unique. You know the one girl who survives to the end of any horror/slasher film? That's who this book is about: 3 different women who have survived a multiple killing spree. The main character is Quincy Carpenter, the lone survivor of a group of college students who are camping out in a remote cabin when they're attacked by a knife-wielding assailant. Quincy doesn't remember any of the details of that night (and therein lies the mystery and a bit of a twist), and it's many years later she encounters another Final Girl. It's a page turner, and I found myself often not wanting to put the book down, but to keep going. There are a couple of major twists toward the end of the novel - one involving the identity of one of the characters, and the second involving the cabin killer/slasher from Quincy's past. That final one didn't make a lot of sense to me and didn't ring true with the rest of the book, which brought me down from a 5-star rating to 4 stars.