Monday, 10 March 2008

The Kite Runner

By Khaled Hosseini

See, I met a girl. She’s from the Mallee Desert and I fell hopelessly in love – I couldn’t control it. It seemed, and time will tell if I’m right (and time will tell if I am wrong) that I had never fallen so quickly or so vehemently over a chick in my whole life.

Here’s why I fell in love.

• She ordered us a gin and tonic each. When I went to take my first sip she reached over the table, grabbed the straw out of my glass, threw it to the ground and said, “You’re a man. I’m not letting you drink out of a straw.”

• As a young girl, living in the Mallee desert, she always wanted a pony. When she finally got one she hated its guts.

• She came to my house. I tried to dress down for once. I wanted to look less like a lapsing goth and more like a man, so I put on a hoody. She walked in and said, “How long have you been wearing hoodys for? Are you wearing that for me?”

• Great legs.

My love even spiralled, exponentially... oh I give up normally. You know those guys that when they set their sights on a woman they keep trying? I’m not one of them. But then I became one of them. Foreign territory. And in the haze of drugs and alcohol out with her one night she recommended this book.

I don’t do best-sellers.

But I was in love.

I bought it at Readings but also bought some highbrow DVD’s and Nick Cave’s latest album just so I came across as the artistic elitist non-hoody wearing lapsing Goth that I truly am.

“Oh yes,” I said to the Readings clerk, “I want a bag.”

I may have liked this book if it was true. But it’s not. It’s FICTION, and it is incredibly formulaic and convenient fiction. If there was a truly accurate word power rating machine it would give this book a rating of 12 – for 12 year olds. It’s written in baby-speak. The story is one cliché loaded upon another and fair dinkum, you could program a computer to write this book. I read its 340 pages in just a few hours (only three sittings) because it is, in literary terms, like a fucking Big Mac. It’s big but it goes down very quickly and you feel cheated afterwards.

There are about 15 twists in the book – though 'twist' may be too strong a word; 'plot development' is more apt – and every single fucking one of them is a cliché. Every character is a caricature. It is Days Of Our Lives: Kabul. The noblest character in the book is too noble to be real, and the evil character is just Darth Vader in a turban. The main character is a cry-baby sook, a bore, a non-sexual two-dimensional cliché-ridden nuff-nuff with as much beguilement as a kitchen tap.

The most insidious habit Hosseini employs is a reminisce of earlier chapters. It’s filler, like pickles in your Big Mac. It’s like he decided that he needed to ‘pad’ some sections out and so he did so by giving us a rundown of what we’ve already read (like what the 7pm ABC news does at about 7:15pm every night). Here, I’ll do the same to fill out this review.

“I sat down, lit a cigarette and sipped a water. I remembered reviewing a Colette book. I remembered strongly the time that I gave an Andre Morton book a rating of D Minus. I remembered when I called Hosseini, the writer of The Kite Runner, a nuff-nuff.”

Except he can drag these reminisces for about a page at a time.

This is what I have learnt from reading The Kite Runner:

1. That I was right to avoid best-sellers

2. That reading a book recommended to you by a woman you love is polite, nice and even a little flattering, but it is not seductive. To seduce a woman, you need to spend less time reading their books, and more time, you know, seducing them. Particularly ones that get given ponies and then hate them. It’s a metaphor. Though she recommended the book to me, she will begrudge me for reading it. I ain’t going to be sending this blog link to her, that’s for sure.

These are valuable lessons, and thanks to The Kite Runner I have learnt them. I give it a D.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

3 New Reviews

There was a cute chick in my local second-hand bookstore browsing the sci-fi section. To impress, I bought a handful of old paperbacks, including some sci-fi books – a genre that I have no interest in and have never bothered to explore. Was she impressed? I don’t know. I never saw her again.

The first old paperback I read was The Captive by Colette. I’ve read some of her Claudine series of books and they were all pretty cute and readable on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately, this book was not from the Claudine series, and if it was the only book left in the world I’d kill myself. I felt great despair reading The Captive; not because it inspired in me a Morrissey-like aesthetic nihilism, but because it was shit.

Rene is a woman in her late 30’s and she’s single and wants a man. She is always miserable. She says, “It is raining harder than ever. I shall not leave my room again.” She lives in an upmarket hotel (she’s rich, but doesn’t work – she used to be a dancer). She lays about her apartment and listens to everyone else having fun. “They are odious, all those people behind the walls and above the ceiling, wallowing in repose like glutted barbarians, but... they are there.”

Rene eventually befriends her neighbour, a good looking young woman called May who drinks a lot and takes heaps of cocaine, all paid for by her rich and young boyfriend Jean. In the absence of a boyfriend or any friends at all, Rene starts hanging out with these crazy zany kids in their early 20’s. Then Jean, the rich young man, dumps May and starts having an affair with Rene.

He is more than ten years younger than her and she figures it won’t last but lo and behold, he actually loves her. This then leads to about 60 pages of over-analytical rubbish. Rene panics, she decides he is smothering her with love, she decides she doesn’t love him, but then she does, so she moves in with him, but then she decides to leave him, but then she doesn’t, and so he gets angry, so she decides to love him, but maybe she only loves the idea of him, he knows that, he is angered that she knows his thoughts, so he dumps her, so she snares him back, and then she dumps him, but then she doesn’t, and it goes like this on and on and on and it’s horrible.

What’s worse is that I know people like that. The whole “What do you think that means?” brigade of the world. There’s a limit to my tolerance of amateur psychologists, or the two-penny sleuths who vandalise my peace with inane conspiracies, fears and open-ended summaries of every gesture, sound and nuance in life. A spade is quite often a spade.

Don’t read this book. I paid $6.50 and it will keep me up at night. I give it an F.

Equally stupid but less offensive is Daybreak - 2250AD by Andre Morton (who’s a woman sci-fi writer of great renown allegedly). It cost me $4.50. It’s set in 2250, two-hundred years after a nuclear war and the world is populated by humans who live in mountains, some others that roam the plains and some others that live in valleys. They don’t like each other, but they have common enemies such as the Beast People who are mutated half-human/half rats that populate the old cities.

There are other mutants too but they are good mutants, such as the main character Fors (who has night vision) and his mutant tabby cat (the size of a tiger) and they explore this new world and make friends and battle enemies. Through the power of his kind deeds he unites the various human tribes against the Beast Things. The end. What is it with sci-fi novels set in the future and mutants? It’s always mutants. That’s why sci-fi bores me I think. Oh, and how come in the future everyone speaks like a retard?

“This is the small-small one of our hearthside, my brother. She is named Rosann of the Bright Eyes. Ha, small one, bid welcome my brother-“

I don’t recall in Year 10 Science anything about nuclear fallout deteriorating one’s linguistic skills. I give it a D-.

Two people whose book taste I respect have recommended The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I went into three bookstores and they didn’t have it, so I ended up buying No Country For Old Men by the same writer. I haven’t seen the film yet. I feel like I have though because the book was quite visual and dialogue heavy. It was almost like reading a film script. I enjoyed it. You know, it was okay. A page turner, but my life wasn’t changed. I recommend the book as one you can read over two or three nights in bed, as long as you’re cool with graphic violence. I give the book a C.