I long ago read The Other Side of Midnight when I was just a supple, titan-haired girl of fourteen, who still hadn't yet recognized that there was such a thing as mind-numbing crap. To a fourteen-year-old in the '80's, who could watch Dallas and Dynasty and stupid two-part mini-series crap Sunday and Monday on NBC all the time, crap was a way of life. I lived a hard-scrabble life as a reader of books, and at the time, I considered Sidney Sheldon just dumb, even though one solitary shocking thing was done by the blonde-haired vixen who was his real protagonist, and even though he did not invest enough personality in the woman who was the proper heroine, and the male characters where, actually, um, paper dolls with penises. To the best of my ability to discern, circa 1986-or so--I never needed to read another Sidney Sheldon novel again. I had the key--money is good and rich people can look fabulous and if you look fabulous you may have sex. And some sexy women were born whores and totally were like that. Urg.
I had brought only two novels to Italy owing to weight restrictions and poor foresight. My first trip to Italy, also three weeks long, I had brought two books of Livy and two "Gordianus" novels from Stephen Saylor--and I read them to literal death back then, four years ago. I was hoping my little bitty better understanding of Italian and love of things outdoorsy--like swimming and, well, swimming, and did I mention the Mediterranean is really great for swimming? And being walking distance to the beach, and all, would mean I would not need to read as much. And I also expected I would make more of my visits with my relatives by marriage who are all excellent persons who I love but don't always understand.
I brought with my the most excellent Good Omens by Pratchett and Gaiman, which I thought might travel well, being by postscript a book which in it's several editions has been through stuff. And which I found funny actually every time. Even when I passed into that third-read part where you (a figurative, atheist, Britcomedian-loving you) start trying to cast the Movie Version and realize the Pythoners are all old farts, actually, but were who you wanted, weren't they? And then you start getting Ironical, and maybe picking Ricky Gervais for Aziriphale and Marcus Brigstocke for Crowley and that would be keen, and then...
And there's a bit of fun for you. Casting a movie no one could make, because it would be hard to capture the asides of the narrative--but still, I'd watch it. You know, like I'm watching Watchmen. Because even if it wasn't faithful (which it'd have to be), it would still have to be fun. Would have to be. Because of all the fans.
Also I read a Scarpetta novel from Patricia Cornwell--much fun and mystery and CSI-accuracy. A good airport read. As in, I would read another of her books. She lets her characters have lives, preferences, depth. Motivations. Drama. Her villians are terrible psychopathic people. Her heroes are flawed, but with such good sides. Nice insights she has--I may have to read another Scarpetta novel. Well-developed plots and good, hard forensic-science. Her characters live and speak to you from the page, even in disgust or anguish or sorrow.
Which brings me to my review of Sidney Sheldon's The Stars Shine Down. My sister-in-law picked this up for free *(a book left behind) and quickly determined, being a practical woman of good sense, that this was not her sort of read. But she retained it, in case I, a twitchy desperate sort of reading machine, might like to see it.
I not merely thanked, but blessed her for her foresight in ceding me a book that I had not already read, just before my flight back home. Just the ticket to deliver me from utter boredom, I thought.
My sister-in-law, who I count as a friend, is not to blame for the amusement/cranky fun that was to follow, for Sidney Sheldon is one of the worst writers I have ever, ever read. I have even written the odd bit of crap, but his crap, even best-selling crap, is utter crap, even next to the semi-crap of a person who is half-trying:
Every page had something abominable. Lara Cameron is the worst of Cinderella, Alexis Carrington, and Donald Trump meets a Playboy-centerfold, because she is exquisitely beautiful. And ruthless. And amoral....and....um, unlikeable, actually.
Her personal fitness trainer thinks "she's a ten" (voice heard in my head as a generic Phil Hartman sleaze). In bad phrasing terms, she wears a ruby necklace "around her throat" in the first chapter--shit, Sidney Sheldon--where else would she wear a necklace? Do you need to tell us she flicks a light switch "up" to turn the lights on? And her "complexion is perfect". Screw her already. She could have a zit, and I'd like her. Money falling out her ass, a perfect body, and, viola--I hate her guts.
(Yes, I know the author is dead. The genre isn't. The world needs to learn from Sidney Sheldon's mistakes.)
She actually is a self-made woman, in that she tells a fairy-tale about herself and then her story is actually even more fairy-tailish-in that we learn she has Daddy issues, and she got a wonderful Christmas present that started her climb to the top. Wow--people cotton to her and like her and help her--there's a theme for real life. Expecting things to go your way. It's hinted that she drugs people she sometimes neotiates with. Maybe she has a weird sense of entitlement that goes with her attractiveness. Who can say?
Anyway, midway, she meets a musician who she decides is the love of her life, even though we were set up to think her accountant might mean something to her. And she coninues to suck as a person, since she's been sleeping with a married mobster and she kinds of manipulates events to stalk this guy until he marries her and then--
Look, this is the dumbest book I have ever read. She is amoral and dumb and people like her anyway. Her husband is a talented musician and dimwitted and gets crippled so that even though he was immensely talented, he can not play anymore, and he nearly has an affair with an employee of good old Lara, but she's just so great, that even when she fires the girl who is a daily comfort to her husband and is falling in love with him, she can't say a thing agaist the maniplative shrew he's married to.
And in the end, I will spoil this so you never want to read the book--it's the accountant who always had a secret thing for her who did scary stuff on her behalf, even to her husband--and she reconciles with her husband and learns that people really, really like her, even if she is a cold, not always scrupulous busineswoman. Nd they will stand by her even the way they did in Glace (that means "ice") Bay (so help me: "glace means ice" was said.)
I really must learn how to small talk or something, to not ever need to read popular literature ever again.