Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Auto Fiction

By Hitomi Kanehara

Fuck me, this was just fucken shithouse.

The writer Kanehara is in her in early 20's and this is her second novel. Apparently the first was marvellous and she's 'an exciting new voice' TM. Lord help us.

The book is about a young writer called Rin, in her early 20's, who has written one novel and is considered 'an exciting new voice'. You see where this is going. Anyway, in the book, her publisher asks her to write a book of Autofiction, which is a kind of 'disguised autobiography' - you know, autobiography posing as fiction. Presumably, this book is the result.

The character Rin is a repugnant harpy. Now, there are two options for us to consider:

1 - Hitomi Kanehara is clever, and the character 'Rin' is nothing like her at all.
2 - The character of Rin is exactly like Hitomi Kanehara.

If it's option 2, then Kanehara is the last artist on Earth I'd like to meet, and that includes that knob who cuts himself and spits black ink... Mike Parr. Knob.

If it's option 1, then Kanahara has still failed, because she hasn't written a delightful book about a self-absorbed twat, she has written a horrible book about a self-absorbed twat.

Shakespeare creates bad people, but they are interesting to read about.

Kanehara has created a bad person, and all I could think whilst reading the book was, "Why the hell would anyone write a book about someone so shithouse?" You know, I know people like this and I don't want anything to do with them in real life, and then I got stuck with this bint for 200 pages.

The character has no redeeming features. None. Well, she's allegedly good looking, but that doesn't help. She does admit she's self-absorbed, but that doesn't excuse her behaviour. We also find out about her past, and yeah, some bad things happened, her ex beat her up, her parents were controlling, she had a drinking problem, but you know, other people suffer these things and don't turn into vacuous and arrogant morons like this Rin character.

At least Richard III was clever and interesting. Rin is neither. She's a horrid little brat and I didn't care two hoots whether she existed or not.

But her worst crime is not her stupid and childish paranoia or her penchant for emotional-blackmail, it is her irrelevance.

For example:

"There I go again! I lied again. I'm the same as Shah. I'm a liar. I'm a fool. It's not like the elements required for telling the truth about Shah's lie aren't here. There's still the thumping bass sound coming through to the room, but it isnt so loud that it hinders the conversation. I could have explained what kind of lie Shah told me, but instead I lied about Shah's lying!"

What is she? 9 years old?

"I sigh to myself and imagine what would happen if a clown were to mow us down in his van while rushing to a morning circus performance. Would he step out of the van to see our two bodies entwined? Would he climb on to our fatal embrace and start to ride us like a ball?"

Who cares?

These are just two selections, picked out by me flipping the pages, closing my eyes, then dropping a finger.

The entire book is like this. Start to finish. Childish thoughts piled on top of each other to build a Babel-esque tower of garbage that is so tall it irritates the underbelly of heaven.

In the end, here's what it's about: A writer who is paranoid, self-absorbed and really fucking boring, goes to lots of nightclubs and obsesses about bad boys. The end.

A good writer could have made something of it but Kanehara has made a fist of it. Her central character is a zero, and so is her book.

Give it a miss.



squib said...

'a Babel-esque tower of garbage that is so tall it irritates the underbelly of heaven'

lol! Could there be a more damning review?!

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Has it won a major literary award yet?

Because it sounds like it would be a shoe-in.

Cath said...

Vacuous, moron, irrelevance, self-absorbed twat... I didn't know that Lindsay Lohan had written a book..?

Perseus said...

I'd prefer to read a book by Lindsay Lohan. She's hopeless, but she's not evil like this bint.

Ramon - Your hatred of every Booker / Miles Franklin award-winner is renowned and mostly justified, but being Japanese she can't get a foot in either ceremony.

Interestingly, Sonia Hartnett won a Scandinavian $880,000 literary award the other day, and so she should. What's interesting is that she's never won a Miles Fanklin or a Booker. Possibly because she's, you know, GOOD.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

I'm just about the start The Siege of Krishnapur which was short listed for the Booker.

Foolish of me, I know, but I live in hope,

Perseus said...

Feel free to post a review here.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Okey dokes.

Andy Pants said...

Sounds like a lazy recreation of Adaptation.

Try saying that three times as fast as you can!

Anonymous said...

are you seriously comparing a young japanese novelist to shakespeare? what the fuck? wrong catagory, wrong context, wouldn't any novel about a female's expeirences seem shite in comparison. open ur mind and start enjoying novels for what they are not what you'd like them to be. get a real hobby buddy!

Perseus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Perseus said...


1: Spell check your comments first, please.

2: Sentences start with capital letters.

3: "Buddy"? I'm Australian. If you're going to tell me to "get a life/day-job/real hobby" then finish the insult with the word "mate".

4: Why are you taking this so personally? This is a quiet little blog where I record my reactions to books. They are not reviews, I am not a book reviewer. They are just thoughts I have about books I read. There's no need to get narky.

5: I wasn't comparing her to Shakespeare at all. I was comparing characters in fiction. Sheakespeare shows us (as do all great writers, good writers and hell, even some bad ones) that characters in works of fiction, whether they be the good guys or the bad guys, need to be interesting to hold the reader's attention. The central character in this book wasn't interesting, I thought. She was an arrogant twerp who went to lots of nightclubs and hung out with bad boys. I'm just not interested in this character, or her journey. There wasn't even a real storyline to connect to - it was a series of anecdotes about a woman who nobody would want to have over for dinner. Like I said in my post, I have met women like this character, and I found them unintersting in real life, and so being trapped in a book with one of them was hard-going. I'm not saying the author has no talent, and I might try her next book, and I'm sure she's a lovely woman etc etc. But this book didn't work for me, and I merely recorded my thoughts on this blog.

6. Please, take a deep breath and go for a walk or something before commenting on people's blogs.

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