Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Worthy

About a week ago or so a co-worker and I got talking about author biographies on dustjackets; those few sentences that usually tell what awards the author has been nominated for and/or won, where they live and how many pets they live with, maybe where they got their MFA, and what they're currently writing about now that the book you have in your hands is done.

I told my co-worker that my all-time favorite author biography was Will Clarke's, the author of the novel Lord Vishnu's Love Handles. Clarke's bio read, "Will Clarke doesn't want you to know where he lives or what he's doing next." Thinking about Clarke made me want to see if he had written anything else. Lord Vishnu's Love Handles was pretty good, particularly for a first novel.

Clarke also wrote this novel, The Worthy. I didn't find this one near as good. Subtitled "A Ghost's Story", it is about a college student at Louisiana Statr, Conrad Sutton, who dies in a pseudo-hazing incident. Conrad had been hazed pretty harshly by the the head of the fraternity he had been pledging, Ryan, and was being pushed a bit too far by the fellow. Conrad, who has been drinking a lot, punches Ryan, realizes his error in judgement, and tries to flee. Ryan catches Conrad and pushes Conrad down a flight of stairs. Conrad breaks his neck and dies.

Conrad is astounded to find that he is now a ghost and seeks revenge on Ryan. The frat house cook, Miss Etta, can communicate with spirits and she tells Conrad that he's not supposed to seek revenge. As Ryan and the other members of the fraternity do bad deeds, Conrad finds it more difficult not to want to get retribution. But in the end there is a sort of happy ending.

I didn't enjoy the book very much. It was just one hazing incident after another. Ryan is just an over the top bad guy. He tries to date rape one girl, kills another, he beats his girlfriend when he's not off sleeping with his favorite prostitute. And then there's the hazing. And more hazing. And more hazing. And yet some more hazing.

I liked the choice of LSU as a setting as the novel had a nice old boy feel about it. It was also refreshing to have novel characters attend a school that wasn't Ivy League. I gave up on The Cookbook Collector a few weeks ago, only slightly in part because the main character had graduated from Columbia and her sister had gone to Harvard and now ran a fancy tech firm. You never read about someone going to St. Olaf College or Minot State. So I'll take LSU as a pleasant change.

Nonetheless, I just couldn't care about Conrad and while Ryan gets his comeuppance, I couldn't really care about that either.

As for Clark'e dustjacket bio this time around, he repeats his desire to keep you ignorant about his life but adds a line saying that he does want you to read Lord Vishnu's Love Handles. That's not a bad recommendation.

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