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Book 9 Completed

January 28, 2010

All things considered, Natural Novel was pretty readable and occasionally funny; but in its attempt to reign as a postmodern experiment, the book seems like it is trying just a little too hard sometimes. While there isn’t a plot, per se, the thread that runs through the book is that a husband (with the same name as the author; who has the same name as an editor; who has the same name as a bum in the park? I don’t know who is who really – and it ultimately doesn’t matter) is going through a divorce and discovers his wife is pregnant with another man’s baby. The ensuing narrative is a mix of experiments, conversations with friends about toilets, short stories about dead gardeners, and things of that nature.

The book is small — 130 pages — and it has 40 chapters. It reads quickly and you can set it down after a chapter and call it a night. Then in the morning, you don’t have to think real hard about where you left off — the next page and a half aren’t entirely connected. I actually found some of the vignettes entertaining and well-written; also (thankfully after my Estonia leg) easy to understand. The dissolution of the marriage between our “fictional” author and his wife is poignant in its retelling — there is an honesty to the insight that probably stems from a real-life loss. I liked the book as a whole. 

I hadn’t read any reviews for this book until I finished it and it’s funny…The Village Voice, The New York Times, The New Yorker…they didn’t like this book because they felt like Gospodinov doesn’t contribute anything new to the postmodern genre; they criticize his use of pop-culture and say the book doesn’t know what it wants to be; the main character isn’t sympathetic; Gospodinov appears like he’s saying, “I’m talented! Look! I’m being creative!” (Which I do understand when he does things where he creates a whole story made up of nothing but the first lines of famous novels…but, truthfully, I kinda liked that.) All of those papers criticized this Bulgarian writer for things that they continually praise in other pieces of literature.

You know what I think it is? No-name author, no-name publishing company, in Bulgaria. It’s easy to lambast that guy. But who is going to smear Joyce Carol Oates’ protege through the mud? When that guy has $$ backing him? I think there is a Book Review conspiracy. And not because I LOVE this book. Hardly. But why pick on this book? I’m just sayin’.

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