It has been so incredibly foggy and miserable this past few days that all I’ve wanted to do was not get out of bed and read, read, read. If only someone would replenish the coffee, parent the kids, stretch my limbs from time to time and do the laundry! Even with this last wish being inexplicably not granted I’ve managed to read my library loans at the pace I’d wanted to. I picked up R.L. Stevenson’s classic The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, along with Molly Ringwald’s When It Happens To You, at the last libe trip. Although neither of them met any of my reading challenges criteria, I’m glad I chanced upon them, especially the latter.
Dr. Jekyll is a classic that’s been on my classics list for a while, and I grabbed this novelette when I got the chance. It’s a tiny, short novel, and my copy, petite by all standards, nevertheless filled more than half its pages with introductions, prologues, epilogues and various other discussions, that I didn’t actually read. Also, since the story itself isn’t anything new, the shock value of the book is lost on modern readers (even though I hadn’t known that the characters really were two separate people rather than a personality split scenario, as I’d always thought). Since I’m obviously born in this century, the beauty of the writing for me lay in the wordplay, characterization, setting and ethos of the novel. The evil exuding from Mr. Hyde that Stevenson had in mind to portray had to be gotten across through mere words in an era when the luxury of actual visual imagery was absent. Therein lies the brilliance of the writer. I found, however, that the extent of cruelty exhibited by My. Hyde that makes him so repulsive to an upstanding Victorian person (the crux of the story), is so pedestrian in today’s world that he really didn’t appear all that evil to me. So, yeah, an interesting read overall.
When It Happens To You, on the other hand, is an impressive debut from Molly Ringwald. A veteran of the film industry, apparently, Ringwald’s “novel in stories” hit many right spots with me. Pacing, superb. Characters, varied but interesting. Theme, mundane elevated excellence. The novel is written as a series of short stories with an overlapping cast of characters who duck in and out of each other’s narratives. It was kind of fun to try to guess who was who depending on the story and the person narrating it, and to figure out their relationship to each other. The characters are as dysfunctional as their families, and Ringwald manages to bring real life to life. The writing did strike me as a bit amateurish in places (a writer’s basic “show, don’t tell” rule was pretty loosely followed), but the premise of the stories carried me through to the end. I’d give it a 7 on a recommendation scale of 1 to 10, so if you happen upon it at the libe, read it.