Strange Comforts afforded by the professions- 3/10
“If you can understand the first three pages of this lexical minefield, then you are doing well.”
With a title like “Strange Comforts Afforded by the Profession” you know you’re not going to be reading a fast paced Andy McNabb thriller. More likely readers will be picturing a thought provoking tale rich with meaning, reflection and a dawning realisation on the human condition. Therefore, with a renowned writer like Lowry you would expect moving, elegantly woven words, intriguing characters and thought provoking plots. What you receive however is an example of a potentially charming story made overbearing to the point of tiresome, due to “Strange Comforts” trying too hard with the vocabulary.
This short story tells the tale of Sigbjorn Wilderness, an American writer on a fellowship, which is about as much as you can decode from the Rubix Cube mystery layout of the tale. Lowry, for one reason or another, has adopted the strategy “why use one word when twenty will do?” This method has worked well for writers in the past- sometimes it has even been brilliant. Here, however the omission of simple punctuation leaves this story a rambling, wordy mess. On occasion some sentences within the story are the size of a substantial paragraph. This issue is further exacerbated by the persistent use of overly flamboyant words to describe simple places and events. In this tale, the thesaurus overload offers nothing but a boundary between the reader and the story, never allowing the two to connect.
More developed (some might say advanced) ways of describing places or emotions can make for a truly memorable event or character within a book, but here its machine-gunned use of such vocabulary causes each sentence to stutter. You have to re read entire paragraphs, working through each line meticulously in an effort to try to piece together and decode the language to understand what is actually going on. Not too far into the story this becomes tiresome and you soon find yourself wondering how many pages are left before you finish. This consequently leads to one inevitable outcome as you work your way through each paragraph. You become bored. It is likely at some point you’ll stop reading and flick through the pages to find out where the end is.
Unfortunately “Strange Comforts Afforded By The Profession” is another of those books that tries too hard at being a Dickensian-styled book and consequently falls short, cramming lengthy words into lengthy sentences and hoping for the best. Its excessive four to five syllable per word layout renders the tale of Sigbjorn Wilderness less of an absorbing read, and more of an attempt to force elitist language down the reader’s throat.
A story loaded with potential to be a charming, moving tale. However, the persistent Overloading of the story with unnecessarily long word choices and exhaustive sentence lengths renders this story totally incomprehensible. If you can understand the first three pages of this lexical minefield, then you are doing well.