12.29.2005

#55 Crapometer

THE GALLOWS AND THE SEA
Genre: Literary Mainstream

In Seattle’s Depression-era waterfront a naive young artist records the working man’s misery with a burnt willow twig and the back of movie posters. After a riot and the slaying of a corrupt deputy Joshua flees the city, escaping to the rough world of men at sea aboard a 242-ton Aleutian fishing schooner.

“slaying” is for dragons and headline writers in the Post. Everytime I see "slay" or "slew" in what purports to be a literary novel my "over written, over heated, melodrama" alert alarm goes off.

Amazed by the world and yet unprepared for its cruelty, he struggles to find a place in this violent community of thieves, madmen and alcoholics. His vulnerability evokes the cod splitter’s (who?) memories of death and betrayal: Logan Carter grew up in the doomed town of Frank, Alberta, and when the mountain slides and takes his family he is forced to wander the province, following the rails. Lonely and forgotten this young man falls in love with a camp prostitute, but incapable of love she betrays him and he is thrown into the gorge. He survives but filled with a misanthropic rage, goes before the mast. The gallows and the sea refuse no man.

“The gallows and the sea refuse no man”
Leave the melodramatic prose to voice overs for Jerry Springer.

An expert with the knife and garrote, Logan sees in Joshua a mouse he will enjoy tormenting.

Unless Logan is planning to attack him with a knife and garrote, those two clauses don't belong together.

Despite the hostility of the crew Joshua cannot imagine life without recording his experience in his art. (so? is he being forced to give it up?) But what skills he has as an artist he lacks as a seaman and despite his best efforts he goes from one disaster to another: a shooting in the galley, the accidental death of the captain at his hands, the attempt on his life. And behind it all stands Logan with his manipulations and false allegiance. (which you don’t tell us about at all)

Joshua is forced to split and salt the body of the dead captain, and the crew’s hatred for this unaccountable misfit increases.

He is unaware that Russell, his only ally and secret lover is the brother of the slain deputy; when Joshua balks at Logan’s machinations (what machinations?) the splitter at last betrays him to his friend and Russell swears that Joshua will hang.

But Logan’s victory is hollow, for Joshua reveals to the splitter what he knows about Logan’s haunted past, his own history of betrayal and misery that makes him evil. (which is?)

His facade broken, Logan is a tormented man; he realizes he has become one with the shadows behind his own suffering. (talk about overwrought prose) But as Logan awakens Joshua descends, (descends what? a staircase?...give me a break on the metaphors please) and the youth violently lashes out at the tormenting crew. His battle for integrity lost, (what battle??) he at last abandons his art.

The body of the dead captain will not leave them. They catch no fish and arctic storms pursue the ship. The superstitious crew is convinced they are cursed and they mutiny, throwing the salted body of the captain to the sea.

The body of the captain won’t leave them? uh...it’s still ON the boat when you say that right. This strikes me as “duhhh”

In the storm the mate and Logan are lost, and owing the mate a debt, Joshua steals away to their rescue. (what..he jumps overboard in the Arctic ocean?) He finds the mate dead, Logan broken on the rocks but still alive. Against the splitter’s shamed protest Joshua carries him back to the ship, (he walks on water?) a Coast Guard cutter on the horizon. The tightening noose does not concern him; he has already lost everything.

As he awaits capture Joshua perceives an old crewman’s weary misery and at last comes to understand that men become cruel who live cruel lives, are intolerant because they live in fear. Their suffering becomes his own and he knows that as they carry on, so should he. But as he prepares to escape Russell guns him down on the quarterdeck.

Joshua’s courage and sacrifice has redeemed Logan of his past, and in honor of the young artist he dedicates what remains of his life to fighting oppression of the poor and the dispossessed. In the final moments of his life he returns to Joshua’s lonely Aleutian grave to thank him.

You may have a good novel here. I can't tell from this. The synopis is as overheated as Sister Mary Margaret in a porn arcade.

Just tell us what happens, who’s important, the pivotal events and the character development. You don’t have to embellish it with flourishes, in fact it’s better if you don’t.

I’m also a little tired of men blaming their misanthropy on being treated badly by women. Life’s a bitch; get over it. Or at least say something new about it.

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