It’s official. I have now decided – once and for all – I am not going to try reading any more of Howard Jacobson’s novels. He and I just don’t get along. I always have the feeling he’s waving a flag saying look at me! I’m so clever – look at this literary trick!
When he won the Booker Prize for The Finkler Question I eagerly dived in, and emerged defeated, three quarters of the way through. I became weary with the middle-aged male maunderings about identity. I abandoned the book, deciding I wasn’t a clever,Literary, Londoner and that his book wasn’t aimed at me.
And now it’s happened again, this time with Zoo Time. The blurb was encouraging – the word ‘funny’ was writ large. I must admit he is, well, not funny, but witty, when he discourses on the dearth of readers, the demise of the novel, the despair of publishers. But these literary disasters are a sub-theme.
His protagonist is – you’ve guessed it – a middle-aged male novelist, obsessed with erotic ideas and plans centred on his mother-in-law, for goodness’ sake. This, despite the fact, that the narrator is married (for over 20 years, mark you!) to her flaming haired mercurial daughter, Vanessa. Yet again, I wearied at the interminable mental writhing over his fervid fantasies.
Menopausal mens’ sexual hang-ups don’t do it for me. So: an abandoned book from the TBR pile. Oh well: I tried.
GAME CONTROL – Lionel Shriver
Another abandoned book from my TBR Pile : I see a pattern emerging here. Maybe those books are lurking, unread, in the back of my cupboard for a reason?
The book was too dire. I read one-third of it. Novel is set in Nairobi, Africa, and the themes are Family Planning, AIDS and demographic issues. It outlines Africa’s awful socio-economic problems very neatly – I just could not face reading about these issues again , it was too close to home. I face them daily in my local media. Lionel Shriver is never an easy read, and this one was a lulu, in terms of being a hard read. The male central character – I wanted to kick him; the female central character I wanted to shake violently and tell her to get a backbone, shed her Liberal guilt. Aaarggh!!
This said, I am admirer of Lionel Shriver. Her We Need to Talk About Kevin is one of the most powerful, shocking books I have ever read.