Greg's Reviews > The Sacred Book of the Werewolf

The Sacred Book of the Werewolf by Victor Pelevin
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's review
Aug 14, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: foxes, fiction
Read from August 12 to 14, 2010

Victor Pelevin has been one of those writers that has been calling out to me for years now. I see his books at work, and some of them I think, "I should buy this someday", and others look like books that would irritate me. And over the years the idea that his books will irritate me had been winning out over getting enjoyment out of his books.

I don't know what I really expected from his books. Maybe a Russian Douglas Coupland mixed with Chuck Palanhuick? Look at this cover:

This looks like it could be annoyingly hip.

I might have read this (the one I'm 'reviewing', not the one in the picture above) book years ago if I had actually read what the book was about (but to be honest the book that always called to me was A Werewolf Problem in Central Russia and Other Stories). If I had read the back cover and known it was about a four thousand year old werefox that looks like a really beautiful fifteen year old virgin prostitute I probably would have read it a lot sooner. Werewolfs are kind of a blah idea to me, but uber-smart ancient fox people, well that is awesome.

The book itself is a bit more than mildly entertaining plot-wise, but bursting with enjoyment with the little details planted throughout the book. Right from the book's opening epigram taken from Lolita Pelevin sets up the book like Nabokov would construct one. With layered references that the reader is sure to only grasp psrts of, but which taunt the reader into paying more attention and play the game the author is constructing (of course I'm not really going to play this game with Pelevin, or with Nabokov, I'm a shitty and greedy reader, but I can appreciate the formal elements of a work even if I don't fully engage in it).

In a geeky way this book is very funny. In a line like this:

"But for specialists in the humanities words mean a lot, Derrida pointed that out."

I ended up laughing softly out loud on the subway. The same happened with this passage I also marked in my copy with the word HA! next to it (but which I'm stealing from Elizabeth's review, since she has already typed out the passage in full).

'Do you favour a review of the results of privatization?' asked Lord Cricket, who was listening carefully.

'And why not?' put in E Hu-Li. 'If you analyse it properly, the whole of human history for the last ten thousand years is nothing but a constant revision of the results of privatization. History is hardly likely to come to and end because a small number of people have stolen a large amount of money. Not even if the small number of people hire themselves three fukuyamas apiece!'

My sister E occasionally liked to express some radical, even seditious views - it suited her predatory beauty and instantly enchanted her future victim. And now I noticed how admiringly Alexander was gaping at her.

'Precisely!' he said. 'I ought to write that down. A pity, I haven't got a pen. But what's a fukuyama? A sort of geisha?'

To me, this is hilarious and like the Derrida related quote above it is taking a pot-shot at the serious vacuity of contemporary (Post-Berlin Wall / Pre 9/11) discourse.

Along with poking fun at contemporary theori(-es)/(-sts) and scientific proclamations that total understanding of everything is just one or two findings away, the book delves into some Buddhist type answers to the destructive silliness that makes up day to day life. This 'answer' I would have found really annoying a few years ago but in my post-defeatist frame of reference I didn't find it annoying at all (unlike how annoying I found the Buddhist nonsense thrown into that Bangkok Haunts book I read about a month ago).

I'd recommend this as a fun smart book. And I might even go as far as call it my 2010 Beach Read for geeks like me.
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Reading Progress

05/12/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-10 of 10) (10 new)

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message 1: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine I'll have you know I bought the book you're mocking specifically for the cover

message 2: by Greg (last edited Aug 22, 2010 06:15PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Greg I said that it 'could be', I'm possibly going to read that one too. I just got this* one out of the library. If I like it I'll keep going with him.

Did you read it yet (I mean Homo Zapians)

*the cover is better (and less purple) for the copy the library had than this one. I'll try to find a picture of it and add the better cover later.

Greg Ok, maybe a little annoying. Or maybe a little too neat and tidy for the book. But I might be thinking of the method rather than the actual answer she finds, which you are right could have just been found in a Beatles song.

message 4: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine I think no. I carried it around awhile intending to but I think something came up for school. I am going to pick it back up soon.

message 5: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine I really like the covers. Clearly I am this guys audience.

message 6: by karen (new)

karen you already have your own beach reads, mr. "i have read bridget jones' diary and girl's guide to hunting and fishing.


Greg Those are from other years. New years, new reads, new beaches.

message 8: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine "'Precisely!' he said. 'I ought to write that down. A pity, I haven't got a pen. But what's a fukuyama? A sort of geisha?'"

are you seeing this pen thing as general a theme in him like the buddhism thing? cause I am getting that in the one I am reading too. I wonder how similar they all are?

Greg I haven't noticed an abundance of pens.

message 10: by David (new) - added it

David Fleming "but in my post-defeatist frame of reference..." love it. Another great find!

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