Anne Rice: Violin

Anne Rice
Violin
Knopf

MY DEAREST ANNE,

I regret that I must write you with bad tidings, but I cannot hold my tongue much longer. The news concerns your latest novel, Violin:

Quite simply, it is terrible.

It is possible, I will grant you, to write an excellent novel about a grieving woman who meets a spectral violinist of unparalleled virtuosity. Yours, unfortunately, is not that novel. It drips with an over-important, awkward prose-style that lingers over the most banal observations and births such regrettable sentences as "Something was so monstrously wrong that he was caught in angst without end." And the exclamation points! Such exclamation points! If I am forced to read one more super-animated punctuation mark in an effort to force urgency and intensity I shall simply die!

Neither grief, nor shock, nor horror can escape your impenetrable prose, and reading Violin became a numbing experience for me. All that remained was anguish at having to plod through your ponderous, hackneyed musical descriptions of Beethoven's Ninth Symphonyor the heart-wrenching power of the violin.

But far more troubling is your habit of name-dropping to establish an air of rarefied grace to uninspired proceedings. To be sure, the world knows that you have read at least as many books as you have written. You do not need to prove it by throwing in the names of violinists, composers, or authors. Such figures certainly do not enrich the story at hand: Your understanding of their cultural impact seems to have come from an encyclopedia, and when they do make guest appearances, the characters are broadly and charmlessly stereotyped. The overall impression is that of an overeager high-school student straining to have her genius recognized by the outside world. You do remember high school, don't you?

Of course you do; your writing has, in fact, firmly retained an adolescent cosmology that seems to have contributed to your considerable success. One particular exchange epitomizes your aesthetic, although I suspect you hardly intended to come so close to self-parody:

"You're almost what some people would call mad."

"Yet painfully sane."

"That's the problem."

I do not doubt that you believe your writing to be inspired by an unusual sensitivity to the cruelties of life. Or that by rhapsodizing this quality, you reassure your many readers who imagine themselves similarly cast out by an uncomprehending world. But if you are truly this anguished, I feel I must warn you: Your regrettable pain, it would seem, has blinded you to the subtleties of telling a tale that is neither tiresome nor overwrought.

With my condolences,

Francis Hwang

 
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