Thursday, June 7, 2007

Those Who Blink by William Mills

I read this book at random--literally. In the library, Alyson closed her eyes and picked this book out. Admittedly, we did this a couple of times until we found something that wasn't poetry or short stories, but hey, it's still pretty random.

My hopes that this book might be an undiscovered classic were dashed, however, when I discovered that it in fact sucks. It tells the story of Farley Stokes, a young Korean War vet working at a chemical factory that befriends a shady but charismatic union worker who helps him realize his dream of becoming a cattle rancher. What ensues is page after page of hot cattle ranching action.

The book is written into two sections--"Hot," which describes Farley's newfound fortunes, his budding friendship with the union man Bo Simmons, and his blossoming relationship with a local nurse, and "Cold," which describes his impending mortgage payments (you can mortgage cows--did you know? You can mortgage all kinds of shit), his disillusionment with Simmons, and his failing relationship (she sleeps with Simmons). It's a pretty unnecessary and obvious conceit, but hey, A for effort. What gets a big fat F is Mills' efforts to make any of this business interesting in the least. Stokes is a nothing of a character and Simmons is a broadly written Burt Reynolds type who never quite seems able to justify the big puppy eyes that Farley gives him. The conflict is not all that conflicting and the romance is as well-crafted as your standard romantic movie, which is to say not at all. No one in this book has anything approaching a personality and they never do anything approaching plot.

To its credit, Those Who Blink is easy to read because it's written in very basic and utilitarian prose (you can't be too flowery when describing cattle ranching--it's just not possible). The sections in which Mills tries to be poetic--like when, say, Farley and his lady love first do it--are mind-bogglingly bad. Here is a description of what Farley calls the "inevitable approach shot that would land me in her green":

Suddenly her hand went out to my legs and she began to move it back and forth and finally moved inside my pants.

We undressed each other, and with her strong hands she went over my body, exploring. As we lay down on the rug, she kneaded the muscles in my neck and back, sitting on me.

She turned me over and as she leaned forward, her hair and breasts touched my chest and right then I saw the strangest wildness there, like she was letting go of some control she had. But I was beyond thinking anymore, and as we rode our horse to glory, no bad men were going to catch our gang. I slipped out of town into the darkest night.

Five points to whoever can pick up a girl using the line, "Do you want to ride a horse to glory?" How about, "Hey, let's slip out of town into the darkest night, baby."


Nihil Novum said...

Ten points for me.

Alyson said...

I guess I shouldn't play the lottery.

Nathan said...

I actually won Alanna over with a sex-golf metaphor, it was nothing compared to that one though.

What I learned from this review: you can mortgage all kinds of shit.