Thursday, September 16, 2010

Lamentations on The State of Literature

After the previous months' reading, consisting of either junk or girly classics, you must be wondering, does Rochel ever read any quality literature? An excellent question - and one to which the short answer is yes, when I get around to it.  Having read all my good library books and treated myself to a few old favorites, I finally got around to reading one of my man books, which is due pretty shortly.  As I've said before, I prefer woman writers in general, but I like male "funny guys" - see my earlier post about Terry Pratchett, etc.  Peter Carey came up on a list of authors matching the keyword "Australia" at my library's search engine.  My Life As a Fake seemed to be the kind of satirical and lighthearted material to which men are best suited and which I often enjoy, so I got the book out as potential entertainment for my down under journey.  Of course, I didn't get around to reading it till a month later…
…and I must say that while it did live up to its promise as an Australian novel, that is *all* it lived up to.  Let me just talk about that a little first - although the book takes place in 1970's Malaysia, a place about which I know very little and about which I wish I knew even less after reading this book, one of the central characters talks extensively about his earlier life in Australia.  Mentioned are, among other places, Queensland, Townsville, Melbourne, Sydney, Bondi, St. Kilda, the Australian Hotel, Darlinghurst, the Harbor Bridge, Warrnambool… so it was definitely exciting to have been to all those places.  But DO NOT read this book, even if you've been to Australia and want to relive the glory.

Peter Carey is considered a pretty literary author.  He's won the Booker Prize, which I think is the English equivalent of the Pulitzer *twice* (and he's considered a long shot to win this year actually).  He has a plaque in Sydney harbor (that got me pretty excited when I saw it, I admit) and the little blurbs all laud him as a master.  I have no idea why.  The writing itself… well I guess it was pretty powerful and it moved along pretty quickly but I found it needlessly confusing and hard to understand.  I get that's the effect he was trying to create, but I think it does more to obfuscate (like that bit of poetry? a nod to a central issue in the book, the definition of great verse :)) And more than needlessly confusing, absolutely, completely, needlessly and extremely crude.  I mean seriously - is it really great literature just because its so completely off-putting in every way? Disgusting, dirty, cruel, malevolent… none of the characters was at all likable, nothing good happened, the scenery was repulsive.

I just don't get the point of this book.  It doesn't even have a discernible theme.  There seems to be no moral lesson, just an obsession with evil and reprehensible behavior.  I mean bad isn't rewarded, not by any means, but it's not like divine justice pays back, just that nothing good happens period.  These people all have miserable lives and they behave miserably.  Why would I, why would *anyone* want to read about this? I really don't get it.

Verdict: 1.5/5 (.5 because the writing wasn't junk writing, I'll admit that)
Food: something gross and repulsive that some people seem to like, but I don't get why - how about that plain yogurt I ate in New Zealand.  Full of bacteria, tastes gross, but some people claimed it was edible, even somewhat decent. (yes that was a jab at those some people, dear to my heart as they are :)) 

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