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23 February 2010 @ 06:21 pm
The Famished Road, Ben Okri

I've become seriously disillusioned with Bookers. I used to have this fanciful notion that for a book to win the Booker, it needed to be, you know, GOOD. The White Tiger wasn't good. THIS wasn't good.*

Azaro is a spirit child. Spirit children are born into the human world but quickly leave it in favour of going back to the spirit world, which begs the question: why fucking bother? Something of that nature must have occurred to Azaro, because he decides to stay here for a while. (I really wish he hadn't.) He claims the other spirits are pissed about this and keep trying to get him back, but they have extremely poor follow through. For example, it's mentioned that spirit children bring spirit tokens with them when they're born - hidden in the umbilical cord, one presumes - but Azaro, his spirit friends and his family make no effort to find the ones belonging to him, even though apparently they could sway the balance between him living and dying. He's also tormented by a four-headed spirit who tells him that spirits with increasing numbers of heads will come to pester him till he returns to the spirit world, but they never show up. Spirits sound like lazy bastards. Maybe that's why they can't be bothered to hang around for long.

Meanwhile, Azaro describes his life in some part of 'Africa' - he makes it sound like a country, dude! - in amazingly excruitiating detail. He's like a particularly tiresome blogger who assumes that all his readers will be UTTERLY FASCINATED by his gastrointestinal intake every day. If he had a blog, it would read like this:

Today I ate eba and peppersoup and Mum's chicken.
I drank palm wine and ogogoro (a word with FAR TOO MANY SYLLABLES) even though I am approximately six years of age.
Presumably because of my alcohol-induced neurological compromise, I ran away into the forest, got lost, saw visions of spirits who chased me, and ended up at Madame Koto's bar.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Sometimes, for variety, Azaro runs away for a couple of days. He gets captured a lot, by spirits in semi-human form. You'd think after one time he'd learn, but as you've probably guessed, Azaro? Not the brightest ectoplasm in the afterlife.

His parents aren't much better. They come into a great amount of money at least three times - enough money to allow them to move out of their compound and into a live of relative ease - and what do they do? Spend it on drink and throw a party. My lack of sympathy for their SELF-INDUCED poverty-stricken plight, let me show you it. Oh yes, and Azaro's dad beats his mother. You can guess how much I enjoyed HIM.

A reviewer on the back cover describes seeing angels after he finished reading it. Maybe his book came with a free sample of ogogoro.

*I have read Good Bookers, but they seem to be the exception rather than the rule.

Previously, on Book Glomp 2010:
The Lady with the Dog and Other Stories, Anton Chekhov
I'll take you there, Joyce Carol Oates
Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides
The School for Husbands, Moliere
On Green Dolphin Street, Sebastian Faulks