The Burning

The Burning by Frank Norwood

I picked The Burning up at the public library. All I know about the author is what is on the dust jacket: he’s a social worker in Los Angeles.

I was sucked in by the storyline: A retired black tightrope walker gets a little tight and tries to resume his career on the wire. A black crowd gathers, the white cops come, try to force him to come down, and he falls to his death. A race riot ensues, and the novel follows these characters through the subsequent events.

Sounds like it could be a promising novel, but it doesn’t come through. The plot just slows down and falls apart. No climatic conclusion.  The characters are contrived and a little flat. Disappointing.  Grade: F

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8 thoughts on “The Burning

  1. I just stumbled across Brian Reads putdown of my novel, The Burning. The book, Literary Guild and Discover Selection and a finalist for Discover’s Book Award, was praised by the Los Angeles and New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Denver Post, Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist and others. Their responses to my characters, pace, and resolution and overall execution were the exact opposite of Brian’s. I would suggest that Brian reserve his criticism for a forum he can understand, say cartoons.

  2. A belated footnote to the above: Forum (a computer glitch) should be form. A few final points: 1) Compulsive reading doesn’t automatically bestow insight or even comprehension. 2) Real reviewers provide specifics, not just a few meaningless generalizations. They also don’t use letter grades, which is the province of superficial movie reviewers on TV. 3) When your opinion is at odds with the pros, you should have the grace to admit you were wrong, unless you’re an obstinate, obtuse egotist.

  3. I am shocked, SHOCKED, to find out my opinion was wrong in relation to Mr. Norwood’s novel. I was under the impression that I could read his novel, or anyone else’s, and decide on my own as to whether I thought it was good or not. Evidently , this is not so. Evidently, Mr Norwood, having had certain people say certain things about his novel in certain places, feels that this renders further opinion superfluous. I did not like his book. I read it once, very quickly. I do not remember the book well enough now to provide more specific detail, and I am certainly not going to waste my time returning to it.

    1. Lighten up, Brian. No one said you didn’t have the right to your opinion. But you ask if anything you said was true,wouldn’t Dial’s topflight editor, Susan Kamil, have insisted on changes, wouldn’t the highly selective Literary Guild and Discover have rejected the book, and wouldn’t the professional reviewers have mentioned these “flaws”? Instead we get, Publishers Weekly, powerful and memorable, Booklist,a profound reading experience, LA Times, a work of depth, elegance and poetry, SF Chronicle, transcendant and stunning, Denver Post, dynamite, etc. Anyway, The Burning was published 15 years ago and I’m living in the present, so I suggest we both move on.

  4. Well, almost ready to move on. My family felt that because Brian was so full of himself, I should say a little more. I do have an excuse. My quirky computer saved rather than deleted “you ask” from the previous comments. A minor glitch but I like accuracy, speaking of which, Brian seems to think I care about his opinion. I could care less. I only responded because he’s emblematic of an unfortunate aspect of the Internet: Anyone without expertise, wisdom or even a functioning brain can spit out drivel on any subject. Brian compounded this problem by clearly not reading my novel (maybe a careless skim). Anyone who actually read the book would know that the characters are anything but flat, the pace is slow only if your paradigm is Transformers, and that a great deal happens at the end where the narrative’s three threads are logically resolved and linked to the theme of redemption through acceptance. Enough on Brian and his juvenile blog. At least he entertained me with his inflated sense of self importance.

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