May 15, 08
Recommended to Jackie by:
Masses of "Simple People"
Read in May, 2008
** spoiler alert **
I must admit that although I had heard plenty of people mention The Kite Runner, I hadn’t actually paid much attention to what was said about it other than, “It was wonderful!”
So, a few days ago and several years after the book came out, I heard a couple of people discussing the “wonderful” book I decided to read it.
The first day, I read about a third of the novel (Hassan is raped, Amir feels bad, well sort of, he feels bad that Hassan is raped yes, but even worse because Hassan’s rape makes him feel bad and, of course, this means he needs to act badly and do bad things, and make more bad stuff happen to Hassan who is not bad at all.) And, I will admit that this portion of the book had me reading as quickly as I could. I flipped from one page to the next, skimmed over the plethora of annoyances, oops, I mean I skimmed over the Farsi vocab sprinkled evenly throughout to, of course, add authenticity and give it that multicultural feel that is sure to make every publisher drool over a manuscript, and I was even forgiving of the somewhat poor writing. Yes, on day one, I liked The Kite Runner. I was into The Kite Runner. And when I decided to continue my read the next day – I had high hopes!
The second day, I read to the point where Amir gets a phone call from a man he has not seen in years, abandons his “perfect life” in America (well, almost perfect, there is the infertility and the gap that his wife’s uterus is forming between them, but their sex life is still good – sometimes… WHAT!? Never mind…) so, anyway, Amir hops on a plane to Afghanistan which is being ruled by the Taliban, yet he enters without issue, and follows the yellow brick road and lands at OZ where it turns out that the man behind the glasses is not John Lennon at all – he is Assef – his childhood nemesis, pedophile, and just plain evil guy (and you know he is evil cause he likes Hitler – although he has never heard of ethic cleansing). So, Amir walks right into the Taliban compound and asks to see the wizard, I mean their leader, and is allowed to do so (actually it was more difficult for Dorothy to get in to see the wizard, she should have taken Amir with her) and when he gets in, we find out that Hassan’s son is made to dress like a monkey - GET IT A MONKEY – ya know like the monkey that Amir and Hassan would go see (too bad it wasn’t a flying monkey) – and provide entertainment for the Taliban, and provide sexual services for Assef – the same guy that had sex with Hassan and, now the obviously simple minded reader that Hosseini wrote for, says, “that is so weird the way that all happened, wow, I cant believe the way this is all coming together, this is sooooooo fascinating!” Oh, and for the thinking reader with any literary competence who MAY think that this is too much of a coincidence, don’t be so critical; this issue was already addressed when Amir ran into a beggar that happened to have taught with (and remembered doing so) Amir’s mother. We, the readers, are clearly TOLD that coincidence is VERY common in Afghanistan. Therefore, if the rest of the story seems too contrived, don’t worry, it is realistic for Afghanistan. So, don’t question it, cause he is the expert on Afghanistan and you (the reader) are not, therefore, just accept that this completely ridiculous, unrealistic, obviously contrived series of events, are very realistic in Afghanistan!
My third day of reading, I completed the book and instead of placing my hand over my heart, smiling, and thinking about how wonderful the book was, how beautiful the story was, and how it all came so nicely together in the end (apparently the reaction of the masses), I was mad. I was mad because there are so many people out there who think a book this ridiculous and obvious is brilliant. I was mad because this is precisely what is wrong with some multicultural literature and what gives multicultural literature a bad name. There are many pieces out there which are actually beautifully written, provide valuable insight into other cultures, and entertain the reader (i.e. Reading Lolita in Tehran), however, it does nothing for multicultural literature to publish pieces that are poorly written and filled with cliché. I can forgive (to a certain extent) poorer writing when the story is written as a true account and when the purpose of the novel to re-tell actual events. However, when an author decides he is going to write a piece of fiction, his style, diction, and storyline come into question. The final portion of the novel continues throwing out one cliché after another, and throws out one ridiculous coincidence after another. Just the fact that a good portion of the middle of the book was dedicated to pounding it into the readers head that Amir and Soraya could not have children and did not want to adopt, well, that is unless the bloodline is known, is enough to clue the reader in that they will adopt Sohrab waaaay before Amir even knows that he will adopt Sohrab. What a coincidence that Hassan just happened to be his half brother, happened to have a son, and the son happened to have been taken by Assef. And it was even more convenient that even from the grave, once again, Hassan could save Amir. He could provide him with a son and the opportunity to finally fight the big bully who STILL carried his brass knuckles. And more convenient yet, the fact that Sohrab always carried that slingshot (And in case we forgot that he always carried it, Amir remembered for us, as if Hosseini wants to say: see readers how clever I am, I set it up that Sohrab always had the slingshot, and now later in the story, it comes back out. See how clever I am readers, everything in my story has a purpose and is connected). However, what Hosseini needed to do is explain how a kid who has been taken from an orphanage, made to dress and entertain like a monkey, lives with the Taliban, and is a sex slave for the Big Bad Assef, still managed to keep his slingshot – the very weapon used against Assef in the past, and the very weapon that Assef has an issue with! Just how dumb must a reader be to believe that the freakin Taliban NEVER NOTICED!? So, okay, Sohrab saves Amir, they escape and the Taliban does nothing, and then another freaking coincidence – Amir will end up with a scar. And in case the reader does not deduce that Amir will have a scar from his busted lip, the doctor points it out and confirms it. Yes, reader, a scar like Hassan’s – get it? It’s connected – get it?
Truth be told, there are so many unbelievable incidents and ridiculous coincidences presented to us in this book that it would take pages to go through them all because they were present from beginning to end: The young Russian soldier who doesn’t shoot Baba and the older Russian soldier who apologizes for him and talks about the young soldiers – YEAH RIGHT! The fact that Amir is an author who is published right away and cranks out novel after novel with great success – YEAH RIGHT! Baba dies of lung cancer and then Rahim Khan seems to have to same issue – does Hosseini think all people who die of natural causes die of lung issues? Raymond Andrews who has a bad attitude because his kid committed suicide, and then the receptionist actually tells Amir that this happened – the way this came out seemed completely fake and contrived because – IT WOULDN’T HAPPEN! Then, of course, Sohrab tries to kill himself, so now we know why Andrews kid had to commit suicide – we needed one more obvious instance of foreshadowing. It is also a little odd how often Amir throws out how he knows about medicine because he is a writer – WHAT? I didn’t know I needed to seek out an author when I was sick. And so on and so on…
But one final point that I would like to make is that as soon as Amir picked up a kite it seemed that, much like Jesus, his hands began to bleed; therefore, I am left to wonder: why didn’t Amir know about the invent of gloves? Perhaps that is the biggest tragedy of it all.
By the way, I am still giving the novel two stars because there is an interesting story in there, and the glimpse into Afghanistan is valuable. It is just that the author did such a poor job of presenting the story that it actually detracts from the positive aspects of the book and makes the validity of his glimpse into Afghanistan quite questionable. Therefore, my two stars are for the possibilities that could have been if it had been written by a talented author.