Let the record state that a) if the Arnold Palmer is Iced Tea and Lemonade, b) the Jeremy Denk is Cranberry Juice Cocktail and Ginger Ale.
Let me address a totally different question: how does a touring musician while away down times? I sat In my Rhinebeck hotel room, surfing channels and always seeming to stop at the WB or F/X before accusing myself of vulgarity, etcetera: an endless cycle of TV self-recrimination. I am an artist; how can I watch this drivel? My reading material had run out, and off the shelf came an extraordinary thick volume: Danielle Steel's The House. Ah, yes, something even more empty than television ... Ever in search of exotic experiences, I began to read, with an odd compulsion, and then I sincerely could not stop, though I skimmed madly, in search of understanding, through its 533 large-print pages; I told myself I was a cynical visitor in quest of the key to its badness, but also I was just a plain old sentimental sop wanting to know how she would bring this train-wreck of a plot to an end. I have a little file on my computer called "first lines" where I put all the cool first lines of novels I will (probably) never write; I spend endless hours dreaming of interesting hooks to bring the reader into the worlds of these hypothetical narratives. But Danielle is not hung up on beginnings; boldly, even impudently, she dreams up the most boring imaginable first sentence, and lets it fly:
Sarah Anderson left her office at nine-thirty on a Tuesday morning in June for her ten o-clock appointment with Stanley Perlman.
I LOVE it. There's so much uninteresting detail, and so little grace. I have wracked my brain, but don't think the Tuesday has any metaphorical significance, and Danielle really wants us to know, though there is no future plot juncture depending on it, that it takes a half-hour to get from her office to Stanley's place. I suppose the sentence does convey a sense of specificity and punctuality, a kind of no-nonsense, life-is-not-about-wiffly-waffly-images kind of thing. Curious, for a romance. A pragmatic romance? Along those lines, I love her choices of names: nothing quirky, nothing off-type. The men mostly have nice masculine one-syllable names (Jeff, Phil, Dave, George) except for the French professional bachelor, Pierre. The women are a more gentle two-syllable crowd (Sarah, Audrey, Mimi) except for the uptight French wife, Marie-Louise, who needs a lot more space to be haughty. Interestingly, the money-hoarding genius at investing is named Stanley Perlman. Surely, there's no stereotype there.
Now, let us be the first to admit!: we are no strangers here at Think Denk to clumsy metaphors. But, one has to bow in reverent admiration at Miss Steel. Generally she avoids prose that is too far from naked fact, or generic account, preferring for instance:
Sarah came back to the apartment to put her dry cleaning away, and after that she went to the photography exhibit at the museum, and found it beautiful and interesting. She would have liked to share it with Phil, but she knew he wasn't crazy about museums. She went for a walk on the Marina Green after that, to get some exercise and air, and she was back at her apartment as six o'clock, after stopping at Safeway to buy some groceries.
Proust, eat your heart out. A passage like this makes me want to bring back Susan Sontag for a diatribe. But here Miss Steel goes trying out a little metaphor:
The day without him, his spending it with his friend without calling her, the way he talked about Dave's ex-wife and his girlfriend, and the exceptionally good sex she and Phil had had. All put together, it made for a puzzle where none of the pieces fit smoothly.
Aha! One tremendously awkward ("his spending it," "had had"), ungrammatical sentence, followed by an explanatory metaphor. Probably, I would suggest, "All put together, THEY made for a puzzle where none of the pieces fit smoothly." Anybody else agree on this? I'm not a stickler; plurals can become singulars and vice versa; to my mind, it's no biggie. But I sense Danielle felt she had gone too far out on a linguistic limb, that the meaning was not clear, and so she elucidates:
She felt as though she were trying to fit pieces together that showed trees, sky, half a cat, and part of a barn door.
And yet further, in case you missed the point:
All together they didn't make a picture. She knew what the images were, but none of them was complete, and she didn't feel whole, either.
Kerpow! Thud! Idea pounded into my head, for good, so hard that in fact my head hurts. Now some of you don't like it when I get too mean-spirited and snobby and stuff here on Think Denk and so you probably won't enjoy this little Danielle Steel moment. Can you forgive me? It's true, I can be a jerk. I'm just trying to show you that sometimes you can get so bored in your hotel room that in fact you will do ANYTHING, including read romance novels, and sometimes these unexpected, desperate diversions can be very diverting. I skimmed all the way to the end of The House and seriously had to know how it ended. In fact, once the heroine buys real estate, everything seems to fall into place. Her architect becomes her boyfriend, both her mother and grandmother find new husbands, the old boyfriend is revealed as a cad--
He could have been plunging into the spectacular blonde when she walked in, instead of whatever they were doing under the covers. Fortunately, it had been a cold night, and his apartment was always freezing, so they had stayed under the duvet.
--I admire the attention to climatic, and not just climactic, detail. Really a whole lifetime of growth and happiness seems to be compressed into one heavy mortgage, and I wondered if Danielle was in cahoots with the broker lobby. All my criticism is beyond useless, however; this authoress is laughing, has laughed, will continue to laugh, all the way to the bank, and if I got some laughter out of it too, and you readers do also, then who's really suffering? No one. I apologize to all Think Denk readers, in advance, who are Steel fans, and I hope Sarah and Jeff live happily ever after and I'm sure Phil will continue to be a selfish self-absorbed jerk and where's the remote?