Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Antkind by Charlie Kaufman

Well, I sailed into this one with best of intentions, as a huge fan of Kaufman's screenplays, particularly BEING JOHN MALKOVICH and SYNECHDOCE NEW YORK.

But this book wore me out. Its multiple regressions, its non-linear plot and obsession with time-travel-tomfoolery, its thousand characters (all abandoned before they're at all realistic): that kind of shit just did me in, especially over 700 pages, perhaps twice as a long as I would be comfortable doing the kind of po-mo dance Kaufman was leading me through, although I'm pretty sure he did it consciously: as Randall Jarrell commented about difficult 20th century poetry, in POETRY AND THE AGE, "The poet said 'Since you won't read me, I'll make sure you can't'." 

The first half of the book was extraordinary and bristling with unexpected turns and new directions. There were a million cultural references, most very funny, some very mean-spirited, often goth. There were a lot of puns: some funny, some funny and stupid, some just very stupid indeed.

For me the problem in the second half was it was as if Kaufman had abandoned the first half altogether and decided to start over. I expect connection, conflict, and resolution: a tonic.

The book's ancestors are DF Wallace, Vonnegut, Pynchon, undoubtedly, as many reviewers are saying. I found a much strong echo of Gore Vidal in his awesome MYRA BRECKINRIDGE and MYRON novels.

You can read a (also overly long) plot summary here. I am no longer a young enough man to provide you one written by myself.

Maybe it was just time for me to read another enormously long, enormously annoying novel, as I did in January of this year.

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