A.J.'s Reviews > The Metamorphosis

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
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Apr 20, 10

bookshelves: fiction
Read from April 15 to 19, 2010

As long as I can remember appreciating fiction, I've been drawn to stories that take place at the edges of reality––your serial killers and psychos, your confused and wanderers, your vampires and werewolves, your time travelers and giant beetles. Good writing is still good writing, and a good story is still a good story, no spaceships or wizards required. But if I have my pick between the coffee shop book of the month selection and the newest wonder under the carnival tent, stamp my ticket for the carnival.

But once in awhile you get something advertised as the best of both worlds. Something that starts with, oh say: "When Gregor Sansa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin." Flip to the cover. Written by Franz Kafka. Yes, I do believe we're in business. And finally, you think, here's a bizarre story that not only will have the markings of a true master craftsman, but might even resonate with some aspect of human experience beyond your mystery of the week entertainment shelf. Pursue this thought for sixty pages and you find.... An extended metaphor.

Uuuuuuuuhhhhgggghhhhhhhhhhh. Facepalm.

Alienation. The tyranny of family. The writer's burden (whatever that is). Capitalism. Take your pick, ladies and gentlemen. Step right up! What does the giant vermin really stand for? Why does he crawl from room to room and think for five hundred words about the furniture? Go ahead, I'll give you a minute to answer. While you're thinking about it, I'm going to grab my suspenders, take a deep breath, and get ready to roar in my best Chris Farley impression regardless of your answer: "La dee FREAKIN daaa!"

I didn't hate Kafka's novella. It wasn't long enough to despise. I didn't love it, either. The way I read the story, I don't believe there was an actual transformation to begin with, which means hello unreliable narrator. This might have been enough had the story been half as long as it was, but at sixty pages with little else except stacks of symbolism, I need more for my dollar. I would have appreciated some kind of pulse to the story, or an event which propels the character to do something. Too much to ask? I guess so. Masterpiece of the twentieth century indeed.
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