Because no one criticises books properly these days - if they ever did - they tend to fall into one of two categories in terms of back-cover reviews: 'Unputownable' and 'Brilliant.' This is definitely a contender for the 'brilliant' category. For one thing, folks said so! For another, reading it was like taking slimy medication or doing three hours on a cross-trainer. I got into my car today, drove to the next town and bought choc chips just to avoid reading it. Then I made cookies while reading it. As each page takes so long to finish, being without fail pointlessly meandering, I ended up creaming the sugar properly for the first time in my life. I am usually too impatient to do it right - besides, my main objective in baking cookies is eating raw dough; the final result invariably ends up burned.
I think ol' Tommy P must be sniggering into his sleeve about the fact that people took a book about alligators and nose-jobs and spies so seriously. It's the fucking Da Vinci Code for Smart people, I'm serious.
The Times said he 'writes with enormous skill and virtuosity'. Yeah, because I counted two misspellings and multiple overuses of the word 'leprous' to describe stuff. Maybe V actually stands for Very Reluctant to Use Question Marks? (I am not even kidding.) (Oh how I wish I was.)
So basically, this ended up being a book about Stencil - who refers to himself in the third person and has a father also named in the book as Stencil, which is VERY VERY ANNOYING - finding his mom? Who had a false eye. That creeped me out so much. As did the part where her lover was IMPALED THROUGH THE VAGINA. I'm guessing ol' Tommy P (we had a lot of conversations, me and ol' Tommy P, mostly beginning 'I HATE YOU I HATE YOU WATCH ME HATING YOU') was either a part of the Beat Generation of misogynistic asshole female-haters, or mates with them, because women sure get short shrift in this book.
Angel might have been satisfied only with her life, Profane didn't know how deep the code ran. He couldn't go in and stop it; didn't know if he wanted to.
NO, BENNY? YOU DON'T WANT TO STOP A HONOUR KILLING FOLLOWING A GANG RAPE? ENDEAR YOURSELF TO ME MOAR, I DARE YOU.
girls approached with organ at the ready, their eyes filming over in anticipated pleasure
Echoes of my favourite, Sal Paradise! I bet he too would think that women ENTRAMMELLED IN SLAVERY or in ANY OTHER CIRCUMSTANCE would be DELIGHTED to be not just raped, but KILLED AND THEN RAPED.
"A woman wants to feel like a woman," breathing hard, "is all. She wants to be penetrated, taken, ravished. But more than that she wants to enclose the man."
Seriously, Sal/ol' Tommy P. There is not enough LOL NO in the WORLD.
Someone had set a blaze in the fireplace and was roasting a cat he'd found in the street.
Not shades of Sal this time, but those of his asshole friend (god, that could really apply to anyone in On the Road, my bad!) who tried to drown cats. WHY YOU BE HATIN'?
Moving on to another topic: ol' Tommy's irrepressible pretentiousness.
For that moment at least they seemed to give up external plans, theories and codes, even the inescapable romantic curiosity about one another, to indulge in being simply and purely young, to share that sense of the world's affliction, that outgoing sorrow which anyone this age regards as reward or gratuity for having survived adolescence.
WHAT. WHAT IS THIS. WHAT.
How do you 'indulge in being simply and purely young' without, you know, actually doing anything?
There are some reasonably witty lines.
Okay, there are three.
1. His to mark up, to set mousetraps off in. More than any paid passenger would ever do for her. (I don't actually remember why I found this funny. But that will just further illuminate why this book as a whole is so unfunny.)
2. She talked perhaps overmuch of religion; had indeed for a time considered the Son of God as a young lady will consider any eligible bachelor. But had realised eventually that of course he was not but maintained instead a great harem clad in black, decked only with rosaries.
3. "Moffit," Stencil said after a while, puffing meditatively, "if there is ever a plot to assassinate the Foriegn Minister, I pray I never get assigned to the job of preventing it. Conflict of interest, you know."
Plus two salient points made on humankind, quite apart from the bullshitting on 'identity' that clutters the whole book. Seriously, he should have stuck to writing about people hunting alligators in the sewers of New York (actual alligators, y'all!) and priests trying to convert rats. That part was actually good, although what Profane had to do with anything I still don't know. Methinks ol’ Tommy siphoned in those parts to make up wordcount in the manner of Charlie Dick(ens). The part with the rainbow spider monkeys in Vheissu - also good! I wanted more about the crazy sekkrit land. Do you think I got it? NO.
1. All of which went to support his private thesis that correction - along all dimensions: social, political, emotional - entrails retreat to a diametric opposite rather than any reasonable search for a golden mean.
2. These children knew what was happening: knew that bombs killed. But what's a human, after all? No different from a church, obelisk, statue. Only one thing matters: it's the bomb that wins.
That's a pretty good one to end on, actually.
Previously, on Book Glomp 2009:
He Knew He Was Right, Anthony Trollope |The Bostonians, Henry James | For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway | For Esme - with Love and Squalor, JD Salinger | The Outsider, Albert Camus | The Princess Diaries: Ten out of Ten, Meg Cabot | The Vicar of Bullhampton, Anthony Trollope | Molesworth, Geoffrey Willans | Villette, Charlotte Bronte | The Portrait of a Lady, Henry James | The Way of All Flesh, Samuel Butler | Cecilia, Fanny Burney | The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger | The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark | Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut | Valley of the Dolls, Jacqueline Susann | Siddhartha, Herman Hesse | The White Tiger, Aravind Adiga | The Duke and I, Julia Quinn | Brave New World, Aldous Huxley | North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell | Cider with Rosie, Laurie Lee | Catch-22, Joseph Heller | Bright Shiny Morning, James Frey | Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck | The Demon's Lexicon, Sarah Rees Brennan | The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton | jPod, Douglas Coupland | 'Are these my basoomas I see before me?', Louise Rennison | Faro's Daughter, Georgette Heyer | Anansi Boys, Neil Gaiman | The Accidental Sorcerer, K.E. Mills | Ethan of Athos, Lois McMaster Bujold