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October 26, 2008

Pickle Me This reads about werewolves

I would never have read Living With the Dead had I not heard Kelley Armstrong read as part of the Kama Reading Series last year. “New York Times Bestselling Author” though she is, Armstrong did stick out in this group of literary writers. The first story she read that night had been published in an anthology about Vampire birthdays– “Really,” she had to say, because no one in the audience would have believed in such a thing (in vampires or anthologies about vampire birthdays). We weren’t exactly her kind of crowd, but Kelly Armstrong wooed us. Self-deprecating, hysterically funny, and a wonderfully engaging reader, she was a star of the show that night, which was something for a woman who’d had a problem with her GPS and ended up in Mississauga instead of at the ROM. I was very glad she made it to the right place eventually.

So I wanted to read her latest book, from her “Women of the Otherworld” series, because Armstrong herself seemed terrific. But also because I never would have read it otherwise, and I am eternally curious about my own tastes and prejudices. I have an appreciation for popular fiction, but I avoid “genre” like the plague, which isn’t entirely fair, because I’ve never even been exposed to it.

It’s not strictly bookish, though, my aversion to genre and fantasy. I don’t even like The Princess Bride, which frustrates some people to no end. I think it all stems from when they made us watch The Neverending Story one rainy day in grade one, and after being traumatized by the horse sinking into the quicksand, I wanted nothing imaginary ever again. Which is strange considering how much I love fiction. The truest literary form I know, but I like fiction to recreate the world I live in and not make itself another one.

I never got into watching Buffy or Angel, until we moved to Japan. There was only one English channel on TV, so you could take it or leave it, but even when I left it, my husband didn’t and as our apartment was only one room, I couldn’t help overhearing. I couldn’t stop paying attention either, because Buffy and Angel were really good shows. Well, except for the vampire/fantasy stuff, which I tuned out to. Without those elements, these would have been perfect shows for me.

Which was the way I felt about reading Living With the Dead. That it was a fun, plot-driven novel, and I could even overlook the werewolves and half-demons when they weren’t integral to the story. The story of Robyn Peltier, PR rep. for an obnoxious celebutante for whose death she has just been framed. She enlists her friends– said werewolf and demon (though Robyn doesn’t know this about them)– for support as she tries to prove her innocence, and also tries to avoid a strange violent woman who is determined to stay on her trail. The woman wants something from her, but Robyn does not know what. For there is so much she has to discover– including the true identities of her friends, who she can trust, and who she can’t.

That I wasn’t in love with Living With the Dead isn’t the book’s fault, for I don’t suppose I was ever meant to be its ideal reader. For some people, I think, the demons and werewolves would be main attraction, but I still don’t get that. That I read the book all the way through and enjoyed it, however, is a credit to Armstrong’s excellent plot. So it’s not the book, it’s the genre. Could be that such books require significant investment? Living With the Dead— a pretty long novel at 372 pages, containing a folklore and vocabulary all of its own– demands more effort than I would typically allot to my pop-fic. You really have to want to get this stuff, the werewolf nitty-gritty, but unfortunately I just wasn’t that determined in the end.

One thought on “Pickle Me This reads about werewolves”

  1. Panic says:

    I adore this author. 🙂

    It’s not really my genre either, but I go through each new Kelly Armstrong book at light speed because I love her writing so much. I picked up her first book, just after her second came out, on a whim. She’s just such a fantastic writer, with really believable, yet supernatural, female characters. They’re not all leggy amazon supermodels with a taste for blood.

    I’m so glad for her success and that people respond to her work.

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