Wild Animus by Rich Shapero

Wild Animus by Rich Shapero: I want to say something nice about this book, but I’m having trouble. I will admit that heavy drug-usage and self-centered obsession with finding oneself are not things I can relate to, but that was the least of my complaints. The prose was overwrought with awkward metaphors and obscure adjectives, so bad that I could just see the author congratulating himself on his cleverness and originality. The dialogue was so forced that it made soap operas sound Oscar-worthy. The description was so flowery that it interfered with the story, making the narration clunky and hard to follow. The story itself took leaps and bounds through time, skipping over massive amounts of necessary exposition, transition, and even conversation – I lost count of the times two people would say meaningless sentences and then the text would say that they understood exactly what the other meant. That’s fine, but I the reader was still completely lost, and after a while I stopped caring.

The characters evoked exactly no sympathy whatsoever: they’re overemotional and completely irrational. The story revolves around Sam, a disillusioned Berkeley student in the late 1960s who has a strange obsession with rams and little concern for anything or anyone else but his own desires. His wife Lindy is a complete doormat, working a deadend job to fund her husband’s drugs and solo trip to Alaska to research his book, incidentally called Wild Animus. The second she starts standing up for herself and asking, ever so timidly, that Sam (now called Ransom for some reason) make any effort in their relationship whatsoever, she breaks down crying and begs forgiveness for being such a bitch. She breaks down crying almost every scene she’s in, come to think of it. Every character is constantly on the verge of an emotional collapse or breakthrough, which usually happens (the first time) very soon after the introduction of the character (then several times again after that). I wonder if everyone in the author’s world is of weak emotional character except, of course, Ransom, who shows no emotions whatsoever.

It’s a train wreck of poor writing. Even the bolded sections, which I guess were supposed to be spiritual chants, were of the literary quality of your average 15-year-old would-be poet. For a few chapters it was funny, then it became tedious, then annoying. I labored on, telling myself I wanted to finish it so I could write a thorough and fair review, but then I realized that the only reason I was still reading was because the prologue strongly implied that Ransom would die by the end of the book. I ultimately decided – about halfway through the book – that such drivel was not worth my time when the only thing I had to look forward to was the offing of the main character, which would doubtless be as poorly written, uninspired, and pointless as the rest of the story.

Originally posted on Bookcrossing.

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