1 out of 4 stars
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Many famous authors have mentioned dreams as the inspiration for their books, and so it is with Ruth Finnegan’s The Heavenly Rocker, The Angel’s Little Sister Plays Merry Heaven and Hell. This is the story of an angel - referred to as “L'il Ole Lil” - who is dissatisfied in Heaven, despite being God’s chief lute player and harpist. As such, L'il decides to abandon Heaven and go to hell, where she proceeds to wreak havoc in Lucifer’s domain, causing the occupants to dance and otherwise make merry. Will Lucifer allow such a travesty in his halls? Will L'il recreate hell? Will hell’s occupants actually live happily ever after? You’ll have to read this tale to find out.
On second thought, you may be better off NOT reading it. This story was only 47 pages, and I finished it in one sitting, but it was a rough 47 pages. While I think there may have been a good story somewhere, I had trouble finding it. The formatting was unusual, and the wording itself was all over the place. The author rarely noted who exactly was speaking, and even when I did know who was speaking, I had trouble making out just what they were supposed to be saying. Ms. Finnegan also had a bad habit of unnecessarily writing in rhyme or alliteration. “Well perhaps that’s wise. (To hell and well and sell and shell it out an’ tell it all (I will!)). And maybe, just maybe, when she gets back she’ll take up trumpeting, windy winging winding instrumentationing, well just maybe” is an example of one of the many passages that had me scratching my head.
In the Author’s Notes at the end of the book, Ms. Finnegan says, “The variations from ‘ordinary’ language, grammar, and spelling reflect both the dreamlike quality of the action (and its origin) and the sound features of the text as it came to me...This is also the reason for the occasional...many somewhat Hopkinesque resonances which sometimes develop into a run of similar-sounding words (sometimes rhyming, sometimes not) where again it is the sounds that matter.” While I understand what she means intellectually, her presentation left a lot to be desired, and I think the book would have been better off if it had been written in an “ordinary” and linear fashion. As it was, I felt more like I was on a bad LSD trip than in a dream.
In addition to the off-putting formatting and writing style, the grammar itself was bad, with almost every page including both misspellings and words that were mashed together. I don’t know if that was part of Ms. Finnegan’s “dreamlike” writing, but it made reading even more of a chore than it already was.
I also had trouble connecting with any of the characters, including the angel’s brother, who acted as the story’s narrator. God, the archangel Michael, and St. Peter were all mentioned in passing, but were not integral parts of the story.
It is with a heavy heart that I must give The Heavenly Rocker 1 out of 4 stars. I had such high hopes for this short tale, but they came crashing to the ground just like L'il Ole Lil came crashing from Heaven.
The heavenly rocker
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