I agree, the terror mechanics are a little underengineered. The book keeps telling us that there's danger and terror and plotting and evil, but if you really think about it, Rowan's stay at Pleasant Valley Farms is less menacing than any of the art fairs I did with the gallery...okay, bad example. Less menacing than most of my vacations with my friends; she hasn't even landed in the ER yet. Someone did die, though, I guess that's somewhat traumatic. But since Chao's death, there's not much to suggest that Rowan is in any significant danger. What would a bunch of Communist Chinese smugglers want from a sexy 24 year old bird of a girl who gets paralyzed whenever Lucy furrows her brow anyway?
Even if Rowan did want to leave, it appears that she's a little cash poor to do so. She has thirty-eight dollars and seven cents in her purse. I'm not Chuck Schwab, and it isn't 1972, but I think it's a bad sign, when asked how much money one has, to provide that figure in any denomination smaller than a country's primary unit of currency. And, given her activities over the past week at PPF, one wonders where and how she spent the money that would've gotten her a plane ticket back to San Fran. I haven't noticed many financial temptations along the way so far - if she only brought fifty bucks to the farm as it appears may have been the case, maybe she deserves to be made the bitch of a bunch of Red Chinese poison plant smugglers.
Rowan's solution for liberating herself from the farm is to write a secret letter to her fiancée requesting he purchase her a plane ticket (BTW, I know how to type an accent aigu only from representing Nicola López at CGFA...what a treasure chest of knowledge I came away with.) His name is/was Ted, but the editor crossed out that tidbit as superfluous. This brings up another interesting note about this project and how the transparency of the editing has changed the way we process the text. I assume you've probably read most of the out-stricken sections of the manuscript. It seems to me that whenever Lamb tries to provide any kind of description that isn't immediately relevant, it gets taken out of the book by the editor. For instance, a whole section of part 20 is removed that describes how Lucy sections and eats a grapefruit half. Sure, this isn't relevant to the plot, but it is indirectly, as Lucy's psychological complexion and manner add texture to the story. Perhaps the editor would let her get away with flourishes of detail if the nuts and bolts of the story had more integrity. I'm reading that book by James Wood, "How Fiction Works," and he talks about how Flaubert was a genius at confusing habitual detail with dynamic detail. Flaubert wrote as if the narrator's (author's) remarks were passive and arbitrary when he was actually subtly shaping the structure of novel without the reader feeling manipulated. Wood talks about how this tendency is one of the defining qualities of modern fiction. This is obviously part of what makes the Greenhouse so cartooney; because we aren't allowed to see how the hands of the characters section their grapefruits, or how they spend the moments between the moments. Except, that is, for the one scene at Reshevsky's apartment, where some of the details slipped by Lamb's literary goal keeper. That's why I liked it. More grapefruit, I say!
The next day Rowan lights a ciggy and, as she snuffs it out, she notices that the glass and needle she placed next to the ashtray are gone. Can you imagine a naive, virginal heroine in a pulpy crime novel today being a smoker? Reds and Marlboro Reds, even the Cincinnati Reds, aren't what they were in 1972 (they went to the World Series that year, I think.) We must be in Western Civilization's blue period...
The needle-and glass-morsel does appear to be a key piece of information, but it seems as if, like many other seemingly significant events, to be simply getting batted around for effect...like it keeps getting dramatic close ups with evil music, but never amounts to anything. I wonder if it will ever have actual significance. Maybe the dropped keys, the needle and the first prowler will all come back around into some Usual Suspects-like crescendo of an ending. Imagine writing a whole book strung together with clichéd (accent aigu..SCORE!) images that only get deflected further into the novel and then dropped altogether. Call it an A.D.D. novel. Wouldn't that be a great act of neo-estrangement?
My section ends with Reshevsky insisting that he take Rowan out for an "opulent" evening of dining and nightclubbing. Here we go again. The social dynamic between these two seems to be the sole plot-propulsion system the Greenhouse has. It's kind of a Pepe Le Pew-fictional-activity-engine. After some of his by now characteristic flatter/badgering, Rowan submits to Nick's insistences. After capitulating she retires to her room to primp and en-route gives Millie the letter to mail to her ex-fiancée (accent aigu...SCORE AGAIN!!.)
Rowan then thinks to herself, as she often does, that she just needs to get through the evening and then things will be fine. Someday just won't come, will it?
You're up, Cee.