Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Shantaram

That it is not the *worst* book I have ever read, is, I think, the best thing I can say about it. There is a story buried deep in there somewhere, under all the florid rhetoric, but you will need the patience of a Hindu saint to find it!

(Did that sentence make you cringe? The reference to the Hindu saint? It was meant to; that's the kind of sentence the whole blasted book is littered with!)

The problem with this book, is that every. single. paragraph. is a blog post.

You know how, when you blog, you pick up some dull, uninteresting detail from your life, spiff it up, give it a good little polish with your shirt sleeve and put it up in a pretty frame? That's what Gregory David Roberts has done, only he forgot he wasn't writing a post. He did the whole spit-and-shine routine with every annoying little thought that crossed his mind when he sat down to write.

The thing is, if it's a whole story, a whole nine-hundred-and-thirty-two-page story, it is going to be a very difficult read indeed, if you have nine hundred and thirty two times four (average number of paragraphs per page) bundles of hyper-descriptive phraseology to trudge through. It's worrisome and quite exhausting and you almost start fretting and chewing on imaginary pencil ends for him.

There were times when I'd start reading a paragraph and three sentences into it, sigh in exasperation and startle the general public by yelling at the book to get to the goddamn point already! His description of man's face sent my brain into a tizzy; what with all the 'black eyes dancing in his face like restless beetles' and his 'moustache sprawled across his upper lip like some sated caterpillar' (alright, well he didn't say exactly that, but it's pretty damned close).

Then, there's this absolute gem:
"She snatched at my wrist with surprising speed and dragged my hand onto her thigh, near the hip. The flesh was warm and smooth and supple. Nothing in the world is so soft and pleasing to the touch, as the skin of a woman's thigh. No flower, feather or fabric, can match that velvet whisper of flesh. No matter how unequal they may be in any other ways, all women, old and young, fat and thin, beautiful and ugly, have that perfection. It's a great part of the reason why men hunger to possess women, and so often convince themselves that they do possess them: the thigh, that touch."

Well well well! Who knew? And why didn't they ever tell me?!

Then, every problem, every riot, every killing or general violent situation in the book is solved by the fact that he's a Gora who speaks their (the people of Maharashtra) language [sic]. I got a little tired of his escaped-convict-with-the-heart-of-gold-routine, and quite sick of the oh-how-*quaint*-everything-is! tone of writing.

This is the kind of book you read when you're a foreigner, trying to 'get a feel of the real India'.

The phrase 'Do Not Buy', sums it up quite nicely. If you absolutely *must* read it (though I can't understand why anybody *must* read it), then borrow. Or steal, but do NOT under any conditions, spend money on it. You can get TWO Pratchetts for the same price and none of the agony.

7 comments:

Arthur Quiller Couch said...

Brilliant. This is the best, most honest, "Emperor-has-no-clothes" review of this awful book that I have yet read.
Were you ever lost at the Kumbh Mela?!

Chronicus Skepticus said...

Sir Couch, thank you!

I am *so* mad at myself for being suckered into buying it!

Re: Kumbh Mela
Dunno! We could check..."Kya tumhaare haath pe trishul ka nishaan hai??"

:D

Arthur Quiller Couch said...

I hate to point this out, but the correct way to address Sir Arthur Q-C would be "Sir Arthur" or "Mr. Quiller-Couch".

Have you considered the possibility, remote though it may seem, that all men who go by the same name might not have the same titles? Have I ever mentioned being knighted?

Chronicus Skepticus said...

>I hate to point this out...

Sure honey...Sure you do! :P

Not Knighted? YOU?! Unbelievable! What is this world coming to??

*shakes head in disgust*

weedwanderer said...

Hello like minded stranger.Please check out my post on Shantaram as well.
Loved your take on the oh so crappy book.
KB
http://weedwanderer.blogspot.com/

Chronicus Skepticus said...

Hello, WW.

Thank you for your comment.

I checked out your post but I'm not sure I agree with all of it. I think rather than racist, we're just a people with really, really bad taste. :D

Chronicus Skepticus said...
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