I was initially skeptical, fearing this just might be the story of a Sad Young Literary Man in Spain, but genuine questions and insights, manic humorI was initially skeptical, fearing this just might be the story of a Sad Young Literary Man in Spain, but genuine questions and insights, manic humor and surprising images quickly rise up through the presumptive superficiality of our antihero, and soon I was convinced that while Mr. Gessen is a fine journalist, Ben Lerner is a real artist. If the wonderful conceit of how Adam hears Spanish—"I formed several possible stories out of her speech, formed them at once, so it was less like I failed to understand than that I understood in chords, understood in a plurality of worlds"—eventually becomes slightly formulaic, and the ending seems a tad too earnest after so much relentless irony, this thing is thrillingly full of good ideas, most of them in the language itself rather than merely topics of discussion, certainly enough to make me hope this poet has another novel in him....more
This novel wreaked havoc with my critical faculties. It seemed like a good book in its class, but I did not enjoy it or stand in anything like awe atThis novel wreaked havoc with my critical faculties. It seemed like a good book in its class, but I did not enjoy it or stand in anything like awe at the writerly craft on display. Shteyngart's satirical portrait of a near-future, even more youth- and technology-fetishizing American society only struck me as mildly convincing and kind of obvious, effectively depressing, and—the worst part—hardly funny at all. The changed geopolitical situation as backdrop seemed even less well thought out: China has become very powerful, okay, but then the other nations on top are simply a collection of places with oil (Norway, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela), with no further indication as to why they run the world now. Nothing was super, including the main characters and the titular love story, but Lenny's relationship with his parents was pretty good. Just not my kind of book, I guess....more
**spoiler alert** Forse la chiave di lettura di XY più fruttuosa è semplicemente non puntare troppo sul lato giallo, che quasi assicurerebbe la delusi**spoiler alert** Forse la chiave di lettura di XY più fruttuosa è semplicemente non puntare troppo sul lato giallo, che quasi assicurerebbe la delusione di una certa porzione di lettori, e oscurerebbe il punto forte del romanzo, che invece mi sembra la psicologia umana dialogata, spinta a estremi sia illogici che logici, ma tutti necessari per guadagnare il diritto di non risolvere tutto (e si sa del resto che Veronesi è fortissimo nel scrivere dialoghi pieni di respiro vitale). Effettivamente per un bel po' provavo mentre leggevo una certa ambivalenza nel confronto del gesto forte della strage, che sembrava sapere inevitabilmente di sensazionalismo, di cinismo, ma questa sensazione si scemava sempre di più con l'incrociare dei protagonisti, della loro complementarità umana che alla fine ci fa un romanzo integro, e il bisogno di un'eventuale risoluzione (ormai chiaramente esteriore) sopravvive forse come un dubbio umano, analogo a quello dei personaggi, ma non come mancanza dell'opera. In un certo senso, la strage volutamente assurda va rispettata nella sua assurdità; altrimenti sarà per tanti un giallo mancato e basta, e la sua propria bellezza persa nella tormenta! ...more
In other circumstances this might have earned 3 stars, because it does have a few good parts, but as it happens the rating bears the
In other circumstances this might have earned 3 stars, because it does have a few good parts, but as it happens the rating bears the mark of my disappointment. I read a few reviews that made it sound like something special (especially the one in Harper's), and then was reasonably impressed when I saw the author read—he really seemed committed to keeping several literary value balls in the air at once, creating a formally interesting historical novel, self-consciously trying to create serious literary art but being remarkably undogmatic about the way to do it—inducing in me an uncommon level of eagerness to read a brand new contemporary novel in hardback...
Instead I found a rather conventional narrative, featuring the same by-now trite obsession with codes and ciphers and maps as novels set 50 or a 100 years later, with a bit more focus on geometry and abstract pattern in the descriptions. I enjoyed the opening scenes, but soon the exposition becomes shockingly clumsy (to the extent that one suspects a polemical point about the traditional "well-made novel" is being made, but what's the point?), with a large number of characters brought in merely to explain processes (of silk-making, aerial reconnaissance, archaeology) or other technical matters, some of them mildly interesting but most poorly integrated into the texture of the tale (this is especially the case in the final section, when one might imagine it was no longer necessary). The depiction of the protagonist Serge's and his sister Sophie's childhood is joyless and often brutal, and Sophie is so unpleasant that I was not unhappy to see her die fairly early on. (Conversely, I found the long accounts of the family school's mythological pageants surprisingly compelling.) There are several tiresome leitmotifs that impoverish rather than enrich the work: the countless instances of veiling, the obsession with flatness, the many words that start with the letter C, the buzzing in Serge's groin (he's no Slothrop), and his preference for rear-entry sex. The novel's celebration of death is perhaps predictable for a work by an admirer of Marinetti and the General Secretary of the International Necronautical Society, but this version is so lazy and unreflective as to seem merely cynical, and most concretely translates into the protagonist's abnormal insensitivity toward danger, robbing all the "action" elements of suspense (of course he won't die). Similarly, big life and plot problems are explained away in a line: after a multi-year heroin addiction, his "pharmaceutical cravings" are "bizarrely absent every since his awakening"; he and the latest minimally characterized female explicator that you just know will eventually come in for some (transgressive, really?) rear-entry sex are several Egyptian burial chambers down without a light, and then "somehow, they manage to find their way to the surface." Serge's final delirium and death are particularly uninspired writing and seem merely dutiful (of course he has to die). The novel's greatest sin, however, especially on the part of an author obviously (and avowedly) inspired by Beckett and Pynchon and Dickens, is that it just isn't funny. The novel has a sense of humor, but it is an increasingly lame one, consisting mostly of the young adult Serge's wisecracks to his uncomprehending colleagues.
I should never have let my desire to find another Pynchon in our midst, one that wasn't old or dead, cloud my judgment, or at least in public to others before I'd actually read the book. Zadie Smith's rave be damned, I don't know if I'll ever bother going back to Remainder now...
The post-apocalyptic setting is well drawn, and the father-son relationship moving, but the prose style, so conspicuously concerned with laconicism anThe post-apocalyptic setting is well drawn, and the father-son relationship moving, but the prose style, so conspicuously concerned with laconicism and discipline, regularly breaks out in an unsettling strain of verbal acne, employing showy, distracting diction to no good purpose. Of course, this will probably be cleared up in the movie version, for which the book must have always seemed destined....more