Hall of Fame…

… of annoyingly overrated and explosively hyped books that I can think of right now:

Atonement — Ian McEwan
The Blind Assassin — Margaret Atwood
Never let me go — Kazuo Ishiguro (well, still on page 76, but I’ve got a baaaaad feeling about it; no spoilers, please).

Also, overrated and hyped, but less annoyingly (or explosively) so:

The Impressionist — Harry Kunzru
The first four books of Harry Potter (I stopped bothering after the fourth one)
Slaughter-House-Five — Kurt Vonnegut
Birdsong — Sebastian Faulks.

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13 thoughts on “Hall of Fame…

  1. May not be your taste, but try The Baroque Cycle (all 3 books) by Neal Stephenson, or my current read, Fiasco, a.k.a how and why not to invade another country.

  2. You didn’t like Atonement?! I thought it was so good, everything else I’ve read by MacEwan is boring. I gave up on Saturday just on account of even the slightest justification of the Iraq invasion. I don’t care if it’s MacEwan or just his narrator talking.

  3. I thought ‘Atonement’ was pointlessly, ehm, garrulous (I actually had ‘bavard‘ in mind), cold and detached — without compensating in wit for this lack. I generally failed to see what it was all about; and I am tired of poor boy – upper class girl (complete with an estate) stories.

    As for ‘Never let me go’, ok, I reached p. 80 last night and got the drift, you know what the Shyamalanesque ‘secret’ is. Well. Whoa.

  4. you must have a long book list but whatever, here’s another recommendation “Gould’s book of fish” by richard flanagan (australasian author). it aint easy to read, but it has more soul (psishi) than almost any other contemporary novel i’ve read.

    also disgustingly overhyped, Zadie Smith’s White Teeth. Bleurgh. Don’t bother.

  5. The book on Mormons was called “Under the Banner of Heaven”, by Jon Krakauer. Regardless of what you think of Krakauer (or don’t think), the story of the Mormons is a fascinating one. So is the South Park episode. Dum dum dum dum dum.

  6. Well, wait to read McEwan’s Saturday. If it weren’t for its describing the London area where I spent most of my time, I would never have made it to the last page.

    As for Ishiguro: put the book down! You have been warned! 😛

  7. I hate to be the one who recommends Harry Potter while everyone else is talkin’ bout McEwan and Ishiguro, but you should really read the fifth one before you give up. That’s where I came in, and I loved it.

  8. patiomensch, I think I am by now too tired by J. K. Rowling using Potter’s insecurities or sulking to sustain the plot for hundreds of boring pages full of suspense… sorry. 🙂

  9. Update: I am on page 120-something of Never Let me Go… what a draaaaaaaaag. I can read no more than six or seven pages before I fall asleep. My sex life is in tatters.

  10. Pingback: Let go « “… neither reveals nor conceals”

  11. Well, guys, I have managed to finish Never Let Me Go and here is what I think of it.

    This novel is ostensibly about a group of cloned children who are raised in a private British school for the sole purpose that their bodies could later be harvested for their vital organs, which, in turn, would be supplied to the people whose own such organs have become dysfunctional due to various diseases and illnesses.

    When I discovered the plot of the book, I was delighted. I thought to myself, this book is about such a controversial and highly-charged subject: breeding humans so that their bodies could be cannibalized later. And not just humans, but cloned humans. Cloning itself is a topic that is crawling with potential social, moral, and religious issues.

    But I have to sadly report that Mr. Ishiguro’s novel is not about any of the above. In fact, having read the book from cover to cover, I am still not sure what the book is about. One of the biggest problems of Never Let Me Go is that it remains completely unfocused throughout its length.

    Mr. Ishiguro meticulously describes the juvenile interactions and skirmishes and jealousies among the trio of friends at Hailsham but they are like the interactions any adolescents would have in their growing up together. These children who were raised without the loving and watchful gaze of parents, didn’t just lose their parents like other orphans, but they never had any to begin with. These children never knew any siblings in life. And what’s more, these children never set foot outside Hailsham. Let me repeat, till these children were in their teens, they had never ever seen or experienced the outside world directly. Despite leading very sheltered and even unnatural lives during their formative years, they seemed to come to terms with the real world seamlessly. Even a normal person who has spent a substantial amount of time inside a prison needs ample time and effort on his part to “de-institutionalize,” but all these angles about the lives of the clones were never addressed by Mr. Ishiguro at all.

    Mr. Ishiguro refuses to deal with the ethical, scientific, and social dimensions that are inherent in the practice of cloning. He refuses to deal with the personal anxieties of the clones as they might find themselves pariahs and social misfits in the world. Also, we are told that the people of the world in general were very uncomfortable discussing clones and the way they were raised. This issue is similar to the one about cruelty to animals involved in medical experiments; a thorny subject. Such cruelty is only tolerated due to its ultimate beneficial consequences to humans. But when these clones go out in the world, we are never told about their relationships with normal humans: did normal people look down upon them as children of a lesser god; did they regard them as martyrs who were sacrificing their bodies and eventually their lives for the good of mankind; did the people receive the clones warmly, or were they given the cold shoulder. Mr. Ishiguro again refuses to even acknowledge this aspect of the social lives of the clones.

    He refuses to deal with the fact that by the time these clones were in their teens, they were fully aware that they were destined for a slow and painful death by way of surgical removal of their vital organs one after the other. And usually the fourth donation would either result in your painful death or a vegetative state of existence at best. Now these are not easy facts to live with. The gravity of this revelation and its consequences do not seem to perpetually loom over their lives as a shadow as one would expect.

    The life of a clone after having discovered its purpose shouldn’t be very different from a that of a condemned man who has been sentenced to die. Even if he spends many long years on the death row waiting for the lethal injection, when the time arrives eventually, he wouldn’t be expected to meet his death without debilitating fear and extreme anxiety, to put things mildly. But that is just what our clones seemed to do.

    Moreover, we are never told about the possibility of a clone deciding not to go ahead with his donations. What if the clone simply ran away and disappeared in the world to lead a normal life. I mean, after all, Mr. Ishiguro has led us to believe that clones are just like normal people with the only difference that they can’t reproduce. But that’s all right, one could still lead a normal life without having any children. So why didn’t they try?

    Also, with the whole world clamouring for the much-needed human body parts, one would think that as soon as a clone reached maturity, his body would be cannibalized for his organs. Instead, they spend two years writing essays about their favourite subjects. And even after that, they spend years and years caring for other donor clones whereas any of the regular people could act as carers, particularly when Mr. Ishiguro makes it clear that the clones do not enjoy any intimate or rewarding relationships with each other.

    The whole book was very flat and lacked any sensibility or emotional warmth. Towards the last ten pages or so, when Mr. Ishiguro tried to come up with a touching ending, he seemed to fall flat on his face. Tommy, one of the clones, describes to Kathy, that he feels as if both of them were flowing down a fast-moving river and trying to hold onto each other desperately. The analogy was so juvenile and so very melodramatic that Mr. Ishiguro’s attempt to evoke any sympathy towards the clones failed miserably.

    And what never stopped surprising me was Mr. Ishiguro’s complete inability to write naturalistic dialogues. Every single line his characters uttered sounded phony and forced and unnatural and feeble. Everything sounded stilted and halting. If the word ‘daft’ was used once more, I had promised I’d shoot myself.

    This novel is supposed to be a masterpiece of restraint and deeply-buried anguish….Well, the anguish must be buried very deep indeed. I looked real hard but could never find it. Mr. Ishiguro devotes pages and pages to memories which are so trivial and mundane, the reader can’t help but become exasperated quickly. Thousands of words are spent on silly episodes like losing a favourite cassette tape, helping to calm down a good friend down after his classmates play a trick on him, pondering the origins of a friend’s new pencil case, and so on.

    This book was an insult to my intellect and my literary sense. It wasted a week of my life. Mr. Ishiguro, please let me go….please let me go and read something interesting and intellectually stimulating and emotionally engaging. A directionless, pointless, and emotionless book about nothing, really.

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