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Since this story was split into two “books”, we might as well take advantage of the intermission curtain to do a preliminary processing of what's been crammed down our gullet so far. So now, it's the Waters That Pass Away Halftime Report! Brought to you by Galbraith Ale: made from the choicest barley and real human tears!

Questions for discussion:

1. As promised, we start with my theory about Alexander Galbraith: I've had a lot of fun so far yammering on about how Alexander Galbraith is dying from Movie Of The Week Disease (and I'm sure as hell not about to stop now), but it occurred to me in the last recap that he was dying of nothing more than self-pity and broken pride. Now, I've never heard of anyone dropping dead from a broken spirit outside of books like these, but obviously a man with a strong moral compass (as we've been assured at excruciating length Galbraith does) isn't going to rig up a shotgun to disconnect his brain. Is it possible that brooding in his cottage all day, wasting away, staring out at the nature that drove him to such heights without actually engaging in it—that's his subconscious forcing a slow suicide? It feels pretty obvious that some gremlin in the back of his head said “Okay, we're done” after he lost his hands, but many people have lived as hermits for decades without dropping dead, as we're constantly assured Alex is. But we've also been assured that Alex is a strong man of strong will. He tells himself “I am going to be a great artist,” exerts Herculean effort to get it done, and almost makes it there. Could the gremlin be whispering in the back of his head “You've done everything else you've set your mind to do. Now let's set it to die.”?

Keep in mind the reason all of the above is up for grabs: none of it is alluded to anywhere in the book, and everywhere else every possible motivation for each character is spelled out in flaming letters viewable from space. We're given so little about what has driven him to death's door, so it could be my wishful thinking to find any fatal flaw in the simon-pure protagonists, or stitching together my own narrative out of the rags of the one I've been given. God forbid I make the book sound like any less of a chore than it is.

Since there's no reading ahead, I'm also not discounting the idea that the author might cross us up and let Alex die of old age. And if that's what actually happens, you'll never hear the end of it.

2. I still can't shake that last scene from Chapter 8. The whole thing smacks of a seduction scene in a 1930s Production Code era Hollywood movie where everything fades to black during the clinch and you're left to imagine what happens in the dark...or if anything happens in the dark. Of course, in this case one of the people in the clinch fades to black before the scene does, so we're left guessing. What the hell happened in those missing two hours? Did they play Old Maid? Did he teach her to juggle?

3. We've set up Westmore as an obsessive-stalker-with-gobs-of-money type. We've also set up Tompson as a scorned-and-vengeful type. Are these two destined to butt heads over their crossed purposes, or would that require something to actually happen more often than every 50 pages?

This book is putting my “make your own kind of fun if the book doesn't provide it” edict to the acid test, but literature students, pay attention: even though it's true that I'm fighting these florid flourishes all the way, I'm still fully engaged with the text, even though we're doing it on my terms and not the author's. This project is an obligation made to no one but myself, but I refuse to let this book be my Ivan Drago...unless I get to be Rocky Balboa instead of Apollo Creed.


Next: Book 2...Reader 0! See you there, my riders of the purple prose...


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