Friday, 6 March 2009

A Spot Of Bother

By Mark Haddon

This is the same bloke who wrote 'The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time' which I read four or five years ago and although I don't remember much about it, I do remember enjoying it. I wish I could say the same for this book, especially because the book was given to me by Pony Girl.

Self-loathing and self-obsessed middle class tossers getting agitated about stuff. That's kind of it.

I wouldn't have one character from this book over for tea.

It's all based around the extended Hall family and the build-up to the daughter's (second) wedding. There's the daughter herself who's a rotten bitch, her son from a previous marriage who talks way too well for a kid in a nappy, her husband-to-be who has nothing going for him except money, the gay son who's a prat, the infedelious bitch-mother and her hairy lover, and poor old Dad, George, who is going insane. He's the main character and perhaps the only one I had any pity for, because at least insanity is a reason and/or excuse for self-mutilation. The rest have no excuse, and if I was meant to feel empathy towards any of them (which I think I was supposed to) then either I failed the author, or the author failed me.

To be clear on this, 'bitch-mother' and 'gay prat' are just my summations. I think Haddon genuinely expected us (the readers) to like these people. But in my mind, they were a bunch of cunts and I was hoping that the last chapter had a line like, "And anyway, a plane crashed into the wedding and they all died except George."

This orgy of neuroses and self-loathing is not for me. It's for people who get it. It's for the people who are like that... who can't make up their mind, commitment-phobes, and yet at the same time they are ubermensches, narcissicsts, and also happen to be paranoid... who in any situation will first establish an esacpe route just in case, the people who play their cards close to their chest and will not or cannot express themselves for (unfounded) fear of retaliation - the people who say nothing at the exact time they should be communicating. They are the people that will love this book, because the Hall family is their template.

At least Token Gay had a small epiphany "... it occurred to him that there were two parts to being a better person. One part was thinking about other people. The other part was not giving a toss about what other people thought." Though we had to wait until page 406 for this twat to turn, and what totally shat me is that his ex-boyfriend, who should have known better, rewarded Pratboy by magically coming back into his life.

In my experience, epiphanies aren't about righting old mistakes, they're about ensuring they don't happen again.


Haddon's writing style annoyed me too.

"Of course there were times when she worried. That Katie would never get a decent job. Or fall pregnant by accident."

What's with the fullstops?

He also does a Peter Carey.

"Aiden bawled Katie out... she resigned. And Patsy cried because people were shouting."

'Aiden' and 'Patsy' were never mentioned before that paragraph, and never mentioned again. I call it a 'Peter Carey' because he starts chapters with lines like "The blue jar was on the top shelf." What blue jar? Would it kill you to write, "A blue jar..."? Oh that's right, it's called writing.

But in this book's defence, it was a page-turner. The chapters were mostly very short - two or three pages would be an average, so the scenes were all like vignettes and because they jumped character to character I found myself having to keep reading so as I could get to what happened next. But it was page-turning in the same way Home & Away possibly is (I've never seen it). You watch four episodes in a row, and you have to find out what happens next.

The book was... engaging. I'll give it that.

I didn't hate the book as much as I hated the characters in it.



Pony Girl is gone now. Not out of the country yet, but gone nonetheless. I'm a little shattered, and fragile. By jesus I loved that girl.

My family happen to be cracking up somewhat as well (maybe that's why the book resonated so negatively... we're all helping each other, and yet the family in the book were all too self-obsessed to particularly care about one another), I'm work-busy, and I'm lovesick as all Hell.

I'm about 6 books behind on this blog, so be prepared for a few entries. I find it good therapy to rant to strangers, thinly disguising my tantrums as art criticism.