History Repeats, Again!

History Repeats, Again!
History Repeats, Again!

Friday, May 18, 2012

One Star Review

One of the most intriguing reviews I’ve received for “No Roads Lead to Rome” is a one star lament stating, “Read the cornflakes box, it's better.” 

This hurt, but I put on my big boy pants and bought a box of Cornflakes to see if I could improve my writing. I'm always willing to learn and I really want the sequel, “Aqueduct to Nowhere” to snap, crackle, and pop.

I fixed myself a nice bowl of cereal and settled in for a good read. The excitement started immediately when I learned that Cornflakes are over 100 years old. Cornflakes are old as Norway? I was captivated and ready to be transported by the magic of words on paper.

Let’s face it. A 100 year old character sets high expectations for the rest of the box, but I’m glad to say our friends at Kelloggs delivered on the initial promise. The segment on the food pyramid was as compelling as any I remember from elementary school. I couldn’t wait to see what would happen when my 100 old cereal encountered fresh milk.

But the conceit simply didn’t support the weight of the narrative. Why did the writer veer off into a longwinded, completely tangential recipe for “Cheddar Broccoli Double-Coated Chicken?”  At first I thought this was a metaphor for a 100 year old cereal’s struggle to make peace with the modern ethos, but it felt rushed and could have used better editing.

Speaking of modern constructions, I must cry foul on the constant references to external links. Contemporary devices like this jerk the reader out of the historical context. If the cereal box had been an e-book, I might have been willing to click over to the kelloggs.com link for more insights, but when I sit down to read a work printed on paper, I expect it to be complete.

In spite of occasional brilliance, the initial promise falls flat. Midway through breakfast, the box was beginning to feel like it was written by a committee—especially the “Nutrition Facts” section which read like a chemistry teacher’s shopping list. In a word, dire.

Finally, I know a good breakfast is the cornerstone of a productive day, but wasting an entire side of the box—even a narrow side—on this topic suggests to me that the author ran out of fresh ideas and fell back on dull clich├ęs and haggard moralizing. Show me, Cornflakes, don’t tell me.

In short, I would give this box a one star review. The meandering narrative is saved by the excellent graphic design and that wonderful rooster that woke me up without a lot of shrill crowing. (Did you know his name is Cornelius? I didn't. Why did they wait until well past the denouement to reveal this?)

As breakfast goes, I would rate Cornflakes slightly worse than Green Eggs and Ham and nowhere close to what they serve at Tiffany’s.
1-star Rooster