December 19, 2011

Cannibal Nights **

** Cannibal Nights: Pacific Stories, Volume II, Kiana Davenport, 2011

I bought this Kindle book and House of Skin three months ago in response to the storm of controversy that Davenport fell prey to in the clash of the old guard (traditional publishers) and the new guard (ebook self-publishing). I won't go into the various sides of the fracas, but there are probably points of merit in both camps, although I tend to side with the author, for obvious reasons.

I haven't read her previous, traditionally-published, work, but the endorsers include Alice Walker (The Color Purple), Isabel Allende (15+ novels, 30+ awards), Norman Mailer (need I say more?), The Washington Post and The Chicago Tribune. Despite the very amateurish cover that screamed SELF PUBLISHED!!! I grew hopeful.

As the title suggests, Cannibal Nights is a collection of short stories. I'm more of a fan of the long form, although I have thoroughly enjoyed many short story collections, including those of Damon Runyon, P.G. Wodehouse, G.K Chesterton, O'Henry, Flannery O'Connor, and others. Aside from the last, not necessearily literary, perhaps.

While I found Davenport's writing engaging in spots and well crafted in others, I was disappointed. In many cases I felt like I was getting a story in summary, rapidly glossing through the high points with the occasional dip into an immediate scene, which failed to pull me into the narrative and connect with the characters. There were moments in George Bush and Papa at the Paradise that I enjoyed, and some of the title story, but often I felt the plot of the stories to be ennervatingly inevitable, cloyingly melodramatic, or tritely tragic.

Given the endorsements, I suspect that her other work is more compelling. We shall see what House of Skin brings us.


Why it matters.

Unfortunately, the formatting of the ebook was as amateurish as the cover. Absolutely zero navigation from the Kindle menu, although there is a TOC near the front. To get to it, you have to navigate to the cover and page forward ten pages or navigagte to the beginning and page back four pages. No logical TOC, no left/right button navigation between stories, which means she didn't create a toc.ncx file.

Vertical spacing is formatted via blank linespaces, so when you scroll between TOC items, you have to scroll through the blank lines as well.

Chapter headings are formatted with the anchor inside the heading tag, which means that the heading loses its formatting when navigated to via the TOC rather than the next-page key.

Paragraph formatting and scene changes are formatted properly.

I wish Davenport well, but if she's going to self-publish, should step up to the plate and either learn the technology or contract it out to a competent freelancer. And get a real graphic designer to do the cover.

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