The Colonial Theatre Tea Garden

The beauty spot of downtown Richmond was, in 1921, the Tea Garden of the brand-new Colonial Theatre. Herein, we recreate the essence of elegance, joy and hauteur that was once found in Virginia's first real picture palace. Bathtub gin is available at the top of the grand ramps.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

With more time on my hands, lately, I've been able to do more reading. Not, of course, the reading that I should be doing: you know, stuff about running your own business, or what's going on in the world.

Side note on that: A few years ago--hell, nearly fifteen years ago--when I first discovered the Wonderful World of Dis...I mean, Intertubes--I found it thrilling that I could read the newspapers of any city I wanted, at any time. When I was a kid it was possible to get the metropolitan dailies of several cities, from several Baltimore news-stands. By the 90s, news-stands were pretty much gone, most cities were down to one newspaper, and in Baltimore you were lucky to get the Washington and Philadelphia papers, much less Richmond and Norfolk. So it was awfully exciting to read those, and Roanoke, and Allentown, even Hagerstown online. I was so well-informed that I creaked when I walked from sheer informational overload. Not surprisingly, the novelty wore off after a few years. I kept up with Baltimore, Richmond and a couple of other places. Then, I got tired of Baltimore and its myriad problems, and got to a point where I only read the Richmond paper online, if I even bothered with that. So--end result? I now know diddly-squat about the world, except what I actually see.

But I am hitting the library a lot more, lately. And, as always, I'm a sucker for novels set in the South. I do try to avoid the magnolias-n-moonshine heaving-bosom genre, but it's difficult. Let's face it: an awful lot of people have made an awful lot of money writing an awful lot of really crummy romantic novels about the South. Unfortunately, almost every third one of them gets marketed as "the new Gone With The Wind." There can only be one of those, though; even Margaret Mitchell expressed a pointed lack of interest in writing a sequel.

I'd always sort of lumped Anne Rivers Siddons into that benighted genre, so when my mother suggested Peachtree Road (which was indeed heralded as a new GWTW)I was skeptical, at best. But I did need something to read, and there it was.

I seem to be developing a habit of writing about things that I read before I've actually finished reading them, and here I go again. Thus far, I rather like the book. It's not as just-plain-bad as a lot of Southern-setting novels. Unfortunately, Siddons does fall into a lot of cliche traps. She overuses a few conventions that should have gone out in the '30s. A particularly annoying case in point is the reference to various characters as "he (or she) of the..." Fill in the blank. Piercing grey eyes, ethereal grace, indomitable nature. Take your pick. Once in a while, it isn't a bad device, but I've seen it repeatedly in the book already, and I'm only halfway through.

Siddons also seems to want to be Serious, and therefore gets pretty heavy-handedly metaphoric. Having spent my undergraduate years looking for metaphors where there probably weren't any, and my teaching years explaining them (probably also where there weren't any), I'm so damned sick of metaphor that I could pee moonshine. No, that is NOT a metaphor--it's hyperbole.

And of course, there's the token character who gets involved in the civil rights movement. It strikes me that a lot of Southern authors feel a need to redeem their Southern-ness by including such a character. While obviously a significant part of Southern history, after you've read forty-eight novels in which it becomes a plot device, it loses its literary impact and becomes an annoyance.

Still, Siddons is far ahead of the crowd. After slogging through one Pat Conroy book in my life--which I spat upon here a couple of years ago--it's good to see a memoir-style piece of fiction that isn't trite and contrived to the point of nausea. She tells an engaging story and clearly "gets" Atlanta and its people. (She should; she's from Atlanta.)

Another side effect of the book is that I've gone nuts looking at Google Maps to see all of the places in and around Atlanta that appear in the book. Even though I've never particularly liked Atlanta, it's great fun looking at pictures of it. I may even need to make a road trip. Between various novels and Google, I have a feeling that the Silver Meteor and the Crescent are going to be seeing a lot of me in upcoming months.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good to have you back! WPK

6:52 AM  

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