Still Slumbering

There are a lot of people who have declared that someday they’ll write a novel, implying that it requires only a little extra free time and nothing else. I hate those people, and Gregory Funaro reminds me of one of them. The Sculptor is so aggressively bad that I thought it had to be written as a joke, and as a result I can’t take him, or this novel, seriously.

The main problems stem from the fact that Funaro simply does not know how to write very well. His habit of starting most of his sentences with “Yes” or “Indeed” made me cringe. The fact that this book slipped past any editor’s desk simultaneously gives me hope for my own work, and makes me question the standards of certain publishers. Both the plot and characters are cliched, the dialogue is stiff and awkward and presented in giant infodumps (Cathy manages to crank one out even when she’s under sedation in the hospital), and his vocabulary seems to be quite limited. Every single female in the book is described as “pretty,” followed by either her hair color and/or her profession. Steve Rogers is “vain and self-centered.” I want to buy Funaro a thesaurus for Christmas. The characters have in-depth conversations with themselves on an alarmingly frequent basis. Cathy’s discussion with herself after a dream about her mother is utterly ridiculous and yet somehow manages to go on for several pages. We all talk to ourselves, let’s be honest, but if I were having this kind of dialogue in the middle of the night, I might question my own sanity. 

Description itself is something Funaro largely sacrificed for the sake of his unrealistic dialogue. Having read the book, I’m still not entirely sure what either Sam or Cathy actually look like. When they make love for the first time, an important night considering they end up married at the end of the book, and Sam’s love for Cathy is what allegedly drives him to continue hunting The Sculptor, it happens in a rushed paragraph that’s all of one sentence long. The Sculptor himself is obviously intelligent, yet every now and then Funaro adds a bizarrely infantile word like “poopy-head” or “boobies” to his dialogue–a desperate and poor attempt to remind us, Hey, he’s CRAZY!!! Given the level of sophistication involved in his crimes, The Sculptor cannot in fact be the sort of “crazy” that Funaro is attempting to depict here.

The main purpose of this book appears to be Funaro’s desire to tell us how much he’s read about Michelangelo. I would have advised him to write an art history textbook instead. However, I will give him credit for devising a unique method by which The Sculptor kills and displays his victims, especially in using the Plastination process. While it may seem a rather labor-intensive endeavor, mission or visionary killers will go to great lengths to ensure their message is delivered properly, as with John Doe in Seven. The Sculptor has converted part of his family’s house to a studio, and spent years experimenting in order to perfect his “art.” Having done my undergrad in studio art and tutored people in art history, I did find this aspect of the book interesting, though having The Sculptor come from a wealthy family where money is no object made things a little too convenient for my tastes. 

Take away The Sculptor’s MO and you’ve got characters and a plot you’ve seen a million times before. The FBI agent with a tragic past, the killer who was abused as a child and turns into a psycho, the career woman with a jerk ex-husband who gives it all up for love. Funaro did nothing innovative with these stereotypes, and because I expected nothing but the most cliched of endings–Sam and Cathy escape, the body of The Sculptor isn’t found–I guess he didn’t disappoint me after all.

Published by Jennifer Loring

Jennifer Loring’s short fiction has appeared in the anthologies Tales from the Lake vols. 1 and 4, Nightscript IV, Dim Shores Presents Volume 2, and the Bram Stoker Award-nominated Not All Monsters and Arterial Bloom, among many others. She holds an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction with a concentration in horror fiction and is currently working toward a PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies - Humanities & Culture, focusing on queer possibility in fairy tales. Jenn lives in Philadelphia, PA, where she and her husband are owned by a turtle and two basset hounds.

7 thoughts on “Still Slumbering

  1. And this is one of the reasons I chose this book: Because I knew some of you wouldn't like it. And I'm glad that you're informed enough to state your own opinion in an intelligent manner. Good work. The other reason I chose it was because of the killer's method of murder. He seems almost like something out of a comic book from the '60s, where every villan had some sort of trademark gimmick, and I loved those old comics. Thanks for this good post!


  2. After reading your post, I can see some of your points. I do recall catching myself editing the dialogue sometimes, but I chalked it up to Funaro's speech being different from mine. Reading this book again would probably yield several more observations akin to yours, but I still like it for now as I read it the first time. I didn't find the internal dialogues of the characters too strange because I've held entire conversations with myself, knowing full well that I'm not quite sane. Despite our different opinions, I liked reading your post and I'll keep your points as mental references to look out for the next time I re-read "The Sculptor" or any of Funaro's other work.


  3. You made some great points here. There were some things I didn't like about the book, but I thought it was a pretty good read. But reading through your post made me realize how many of your points I agree with…I just feel like I let all that stuff slide. I have no idea why I was willing to let that stuff go, but I did and ended up not hating the book.Great post!


  4. Your post is so funny, Jenn, but I agree with you on some of the elements being a little wonky, especially that of the villian or Markham or Hildebrandt saying something and an opposing character immediately doing or saying that same thing. I finally decided it was done on purpose, because it was so consistent. But maybe not…great ideas.


  5. Great post, Jenn. I actually laughed out loud in a couple of places. This was the weakest book so far this semester, and you do a good job of analyzing its weaknesses. The dialogue really was delivered like mallet blows.


  6. This post is better than sex. I will have to put all my powers of cruelty and sarcasm to the whetstone in hopes of writing anything as good. I don't even really want to try, because I hated this novel as much as you did, and you pretty much exhausted all my arguments before I could even mount them. Bravo.


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