As regular readers of this blog know, I have recently won my very first literary award. But I’m really starting to wonder what that means.
In cycling down Memory Lane of late, I blew out both tires on a pothole called Shadowland by Peter Straub, nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 1980. This was his first novel after best-selling Ghost Story.
Amazon.com reviewers (most of them) give this turkey four stars. It sold like hotcakes back in 1980. I ought to know; I was one of the suckers that bought it.
Shadowland is intended to be a story about two kids who discover that their Uncle So-and-So is not just a famous stage magician, but a real sorceror with real magic powers. At least I think that’s what it’s about, because Wikipedia says so. The writing is so disjointed and murky, I really didn’t know what it was about.
When he isn’t being obscure and confusing–was he trying to do that on purpose, to make people think he was an intellectual?–Straub swan-dives into the out-and-out ridiculous. How ridiculous? One scene winds up with the Twelve Apostles dancing around and singing “We had fish for supper!” On second thought, that’s worse than ridiculous. Why did he have that scene in there? Don’t ask me–I only tried to read the bloody thing.
And yet most amazon.com reviewers think Shadowland is worth four out of five stars, and it almost won a World Fantasy Award. Just to get nominated for that is a major coup; it’s like an Oscar nomination.
Imagine if they gave an Oscar nomination to Mandingo for Best Picture, or M. Night Shyamalan for Best Director.