Ravi's Reviews > The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
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M_50x66
's review
May 02, 07

Recommended for: Masochists
Read in February, 2007

In the wake of the Fraud of Small Things, tons of Asian writers with their impossibly exotic backgrounds and compellingly interesting lives have become all the rage in the publishing world. And of course, it doesn't get more exotic than Afghanistan these days. Khalid Hosseini rides the wave for what its worth churning out a predictable piece of semi-literate garbage — the sort that will appeal only to fellow Afghani nostalgia hounds — the small proportion of whom believe books are better read than burnt — and to the sort of snobs who love regurgitating knowledge picked up second hand from books like this one to show how clued into the world they are.

The story remains at least reasonably interesting as long as its located in Afghanistan; but these thinly disguised memoirs of boyhood are a banal cliche of writing; it's only very exceptional ones like Swami & Friends and to a lesser extent Black Swan Green by David Mitchell which have any emotional impact.

The book quickly slides into ultra tedium speaking about the sad lives of the once aristocratic Afghanis exiled in America when the Soviets took over their country. And then becomes this 'exotic Afghanistan' guidebook with reams of boring detail about Afghani culture, propriety and mating rituals. I skimmed through this barely reading four lines on every page.

Our unloveable hero then returns, to reconnect with his best buddy from childhood who he insulted and vilified for some obtuse emo reason, only to find that the guy is
a) his step-brother
b)dead

tangles with the Taliban, and in a mondo improbable coincidence, meets and gets his ass-whupped by a rabidly homosexual childhood enemy. Who incidentally raped his step brother. And his step brother's son...and oh god, what's the fucking point?

You might ask why I persisted with a book I was deriving no joy out of. It wasn't because it was a compulsively readable bad book - but since I was stuck in a hotel room with an unusually severe case of insomnia, brought on, no doubt, by the dozens of cups of coffee i consumed in the course of work-related meetings through the day. Most of the other books I had were actually interesting and I figured I'd have a greater chance of crashing out while reading something that was tiresome and boring.
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Comments (showing 1-21 of 21) (21 new)

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message 1: by Shannon (new)

Shannon I thought I was the only person who didn't like this book!


Sarah I agree with you to an extent. The highly improbable coincidence of the rapist of his friend being the head Taliban who rapes his nephew blew it for me. But I liked all the rest of it... and its fiction, for god's sake - don't read it as a guide to Afghani culture!


Joshtothemaxx I sure am glad at least 2 other people here didn't like this crap of a book.


message 4: by Rick (new)

Rick Pascocello That's a lot of venom for a piece of fiction.

I agree that there are parts of the book, particularly in the second half, that are a little too convenient--but I don't believe it was meant to be read as Afghani history.

But perhaps this great, exotic wave of Afghani fiction you mention will produce a historical novel whose perspective you share a little more closely.

Regardless, it's wonderful that a book has sparked so much discussion about an area of the world most Americans didn't know about before anyway.




Laura The only reason people like it is because it seems 'shocking' to them-- the rape scene, of course-- and they mistake this for truth and skill in writing. I found the whole thing simply too melodramatic, and I agree on the fact that this crude obsession with 'exotic' writers is a little silly, especially when it culminates in the mass worship of a first-time author who can't write reasonably for beans.

And sparking discussion isn't good enough. We were doing that already. To be worthwhile, a book has to be GOOD, first of all.


Dali Stating that the one of the main reasons "The Kite Runner" is a best seller is because it is written by an "exotic" writer is so ridiculously racist, it's mildly amusing. "The Kite Runner" is an effective work of fiction. Whether or not a book is GOOD is subjective, and a lot of people happen to think that this book is good. Just because some of you don't like it because of your aversion to "exotic" writers doesn't mean that those who liked it did so because they like exoticism. By the way, if Afghanistan or South Asia in this day and age is still exotic to you, I suggest you buy a plane ticket and just travel abroad a bit. If you were writing this review in 19th century England, I would understand this characterization of non western writers as "exotic," but since we are in an era of cross-pacific transportation (some even non-stop from LA to Hong Kong--WOW), such comments only reflect the lack of light in your caves.

What IS garbage is this sentence from the original reviewer: "tons of Asian writers with their impossibly exotic backgrounds." I don't know what cave of possible backgrounds you come from, but classifying non-western literature as "impossibly exotic" is a mind numbing display of ignorance.


Sharline Good on ya. The second half, the melodrama, implausible twists, the "walnut-sized brass ball" from the coffee table and the slingshot, it all just annoyed the hell out of me, and the author really didn't need to go there. Oh well.




message 8: by Lauren (new)

Lauren Thanks, I hated this book too.


Skylar Burris I don't agree with your review (I very much liked the book, despite disliking the contrived plot devices), but I enjoy your vitriolic wit. I might have to check out some more of your reviews…


Apoorva The Fraud of Small Things, ha had to laugh out loud at that. This is exactly the same kind of garbage. If the book weren't set in afghanistan, it would be a lifetime movie.


Alexandra I loved your review. Didn't you think the end was predictable, too? And I read this in the course of two days over two years ago, so my memory is sort of shaky, but I remember feeling that there was an easy and obvious solution to some problem with getting the nephew to the U.S. Anyway, thanks for articulating so well what was wrong with this dumb book everyone loves.


Rachel I will agree with you that the plot is manipulated and convenient, but for god's sake - "impossibly exotic" ?? Where have you been? Might as well say "this book is so impossibly Other, why should I care about anything that someone outside of the western world has to say?"
Yes, recently NON-WESTERN work has had a spiked interest (p.s. if you haven't gotten it yet 'exotic' is a terribly offensive term) but that's because it's about.damn.time. that we all started reading something other than a bunch of white dudes and what they think about everything else in the world because their opinions are so much more valid than everyone else's (sort of like your little review here). Way to perpetuate that outdated "non-exotic" stereotype.


Daniela Dali, Brilliant comment! The initiator of this 'exchange' and his/her supporters are indeed narrow-minded and have a biased - I might say racist perception of the exotic. What is hard to imagine by the all-American denizen is , sadly enough, not the figment of an 'exotic' writer's imagination, but the gifted insight into some realities that comfy optimistic espousers of 'tomorrow's gonna be a better day' fails to grasp!


message 14: by Laura (new) - rated it 1 star

Laura My point was:
Khaled Hosseieni could have been a WASP named Bill Smith and I still would have hated this book. I don't care where he's from; what he has to say doesn't move me.

And what I don't appreciate is when people tell me that I should give a second thought to a bad writer I've already dismissed simply because he has got a different nationality than I have.

English has for the last two hundred years and more been a literary language exposed to input from many, many cultures. At the time of America's founding, it did in fact contain the most culturally-diverse regions on the face of the planet-- because back then, 'white guys' were considered to be not one culture but many. American writing has always taken inspiration from an extensive cultural background, and today more than ever: Hosseini is an Afghani-American writer, for example.

Now, that hyphenation doesn't make his observations about life any more important or more deserving than any other American writer's. I don't HAVE to listen to him simply because he comes from somewhere else; he's writing in America in English, and he's one of many voices competing for a place in the collective American body of thought. Now, if he's going to write on those terms, his writing has to be high-quality to deserve the same kind of praise that other writers in English-- like Amy Tan, or Chinua Achebe, to name a non-American writer-- deserve. The simple fact is that Hosseini is not a good writer, and had he published this book ten years ago, during the nineties, when interest in the Middle East was not as high as it is today, this book would not have done so well. He is no Amy Tan; he is no Chinua Achebe speaking for his people; this book will not become and does not deserve to become a classic. It is poorly written. There isn't a lot else to say about it.

Don't call critics racists simply because they've got the intelligence to tell when public-interest matters are making mountains out of books that ought to be molehills.


Ujjwol Can't agree more.


Isaiah Mary Your comment about the charecters speaking half Farsi/half English is simply untrue. People who have multiple languages in their repertoire speaking to people of the same repertoire do speak in both in the same sentence--thank you very much. My family is Filipino and to hear 2-3 languages at the same dinner table from the same two or three people is how life is for first generation immigrants. I'm insulted.


Nellie Its his half brother not step


Kristina Wilde Wow can you be any more racist and othering?


Teffi You're a very disturbing human being with a one sided and mono-cultured view.


Cubesm Wow, could you be any more pessimistic?


Nevermore Your penultimate paragraph wrestled a snort out of me. Yes, agree totally.


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