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Book 7 Completed

January 22, 2010

I don’t think I would be friends with Jonathan Safran Foer.

Well, maybe. It’s hard to say. And it’s hard to pinpoint: Is it JSF who is the pretentious-smarmy-putz? Or is it the ridiculous amount of reviewers who drooled all over this “wunderkid” (according to Time). I did read in an interview that he only cared about three people reviewing his book — 2 gave him glowing reviews, 1 refused to read it. And so, even if JSF were my friend, he wouldn’t care what I have to say. Which fits perfectly with how I picture him.

This book is several things:

1. Gimmicky. gimmicky, gimmicky, gimmicky, gimmicky.

2. Too clever for its own good. Foer writes with a smirk. It’s almost like you can see him, sitting behind his laptop, his glasses fogging up as he types at a feverish pace. When he stops, he goes back and re-reads, and then smiles, pats himself on the back, and sits back with supreme smugness. How do I know this? Because of the self-congratulatory tone that permeates the text.

3. SEX overload! I’m not prudish when it comes to sex in books. But this book made me feel uncomfortable. I already shared one paragraph that gave me pause. But that type of explicit (and, ultimately, purposeless) sexual content makes it even clearer that this was written by a young twenty-something male. (We have the bedding of a 10 year-old boy by an old woman wearing a sanitary napkin. REALLY?!?!?! Really. This has zero place in any book…)

4. Magical realism mixed with an occasionally witty Ukrainian Malaprop. The two threads of stories are so jarringly different that it felt more like an experiment than a novel.

Look. It’s not worth trying to explain any more. By the time I reached the end, where the two stories converged and everything was supposed to be “illuminated”, I was done. Done with the language, done with the assault on my sensibilities, done with the character named after the novelist, done with trying to decide how I could convey to people how much I disliked this book. Done. Done. DONE.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Jessica permalink
    January 23, 2010 6:08 pm

    Y’know, I think I got a free copy of this book while I was at NYU’s Summer Publishing Institute, and I think I gave it to Louis when I got back. I don’t think he ever read it. After reading your review, I think I’m going to tell him to not bother (if he was ever going to bother, which he probably wasn’t since I gave it to him seven years ago).

    I also have to tell you that I hate this author (even though I’ve never read any of his books) simply because the formatting of his books is so irregular that when you translate them to Kindle, people think there is something wrong with the file and who gets to deal with those complaints? ME.

    • January 23, 2010 8:54 pm

      I think that is a perfectly good reason to hate him. As far as I’m concerned, he’s very hate-able.

      Maybe Louis hasn’t read it yet…there is hope still to salvage those hours of his life! 🙂

  2. Louis permalink
    January 24, 2010 10:44 am

    Ack! I did read this within a couple months of receipt, believe it or not! I actually liked it, though all of Shelby’s points are *totally* valid. It wasn’t the quickest read for me… I didn’t find myself staying up all night to read it like I’ve been known to do. I did like the story on the whole and Alex’s butchering of English was fantastic. But, see?!?!? I liked the butchered language more than the non-butchered. That’s definitely a sign. It’s not a book I recommend to people, but I do like discussing it with those who have read it.

    • January 24, 2010 10:47 am

      As I was reading, I was forming my review in my head. And for a good portion of the book, I actually liked Alex a lot. It was going to be the one redeeming factor. It’s hard to write like that, I’ll give JSF credit. It’s just that eventually it grated on me. And by the time I finished, I was like, “So…people can see Ukrainian orgasms from space??” And shook my head.

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