Saturday, May 26, 2012
First Page Critique: TEAM MADNESS
Presented for your consideration: the first page of a work entitled TEAM MADNESS:
I jerked in my seat and looked at my classmates, all eight of whom stifled laughter while keeping their heads down and their eyes on their notebooks. They'd been like that every since we'd handed our assignments in at the beginning of class, and I wasn't sure why. But it wasn't one of them calling my name.
Professor Higgins glowered behind his battered wooden desk. Our desk/chair thingys sat in a semi-circle eight feet from him, all the distance the cramped, overheated cubby hole of a classroom allowed. Late afternoon autumn sunlight filtered through the tall windows to my right. The two rows of overhead fluorescent lights switched from humming a lullaby to belting out Bad Boys—off-key. I ignored them.
Higgins' narrowed eyes stared at me from his purpled face, and his plump hands clenched on a stack of papers. Oh, oh. My essay topped the pile. I could recognize it by the bright pink stationery. It's not a color I would have chosen for a dissertation on the Neanderthal religion, but by the time I'd finished the required reading at 2 a.m., it was too late to knock on doors and ask where to get paper. So I'd used what I'd found in my desk, left by the previous occupant of my room. It sucked being the new guy at Dimensional Protective Service.
From the tone of his voice and use of my full name, Higgins had called more than once. S**t (edited by blogger). I'd either fallen asleep again, or my schizophrenic brain had tuned him out to listen instead for patterns in the clicking of the heat ducts or the tapping of wind-blown leaves against the windowpane. I liked history and wanted to be a good student, quiet and attentive, but he delivered his lectures in a dry, droning voice I couldn't focus on no matter how hard I tried.
"Um, yes, sir?"
The little digital clock on Higgins' desk chimed, announcing the end of the insufferable class, and I thought I'd been saved by the bell. No such luck.
"Come here, Mr. Madden," Higgins rumbled.
TEAM MADNESS breaks one rule right out of the gate --- nothing wrong with that --- by not featuring explosions, mayhem, sex, and/or karate within the opening paragraphs. Now, I LIKE books that start off with those elements. Who among us, however, who has seriously (or otherwise) pursued the benefits of a classical education, did not at some point or another find themselves in the Birkenstocks of Mr. Madden? The author does a good job of showing us the classroom; the buzzing of the florescent lights is a nice touch and the description also reveals that Madden may have some autism spectrum issues with which to deal. The first page does not pick you up by the ears and drag you along, but it does crook its finger and gesture you; I would read more just to see where things go after Madden mercifully exits the classroom.
Some proofreading and clean-up is needed. I counted a couple of typos on the first page --- “every since” should be “ever since,” just for starters, and “ thingys” should be spelled “thingies” believe it or not --- and if that’s how things start off there are probably going to be two or three similar errors per page, on the average. It’s a distraction, at the least, and unnecessary. That irritation notwithstanding, what is presented here isn’t a bad start at all.