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Koolaids: The Art of War

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  556 ratings  ·  63 reviews
Detailing the impact of the AIDS epidemic and the Lebanese civil war in Beirut on a circle of friends and family, "Koolaids" tells the stories of characters who can no longer love or think except in fragments of time, each of which goes off along its own trajectory and immediately disappears. Clips, quips, vignettes and hallucinations, tragic news reports and hilarious sho ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published April 15th 1998 by Picador
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4.04  · 
Rating details
 ·  556 ratings  ·  63 reviews

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3.5 stars.
Initial thoughts:

I am torn. I adore many parts of the book, I dislike a few and I don't know what to think about some others...*sigh*...This one is not easy to review for me...But I am going to review it.

I'm REALLY happy that I have The Hakawatiand An Unnecessary Woman: A Novel to read. This man CAN write.

(view spoiler)
Nov 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wao.. ..
An amazing Metafictional meditation on Love, Art, literature, Religion, Homosexuality,Death, Lebanon's History and Civil War.

Thanks for lending me this amazing book
Nov 06, 2007 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I've ever read: a Borges-esque take on AIDS, Lebanese-Americans, and gay identities. A series of vignettes told from a variety of voices; time and location fold on themselves, and I am left wondering who is speaking and realizing, somewhat ironically, that it doesn't matter. Humorous in its serious understanding of futility and hope and death and longing. Up there with Gabriel Garcia Marquez's 100 Years of Solitude and David Eggers's A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Geniu ...more
Mar 19, 2009 rated it liked it
I read this book after being blown away by The Hakawati (speaking of underlining book titles, the MLA has changed their guidelines to suggest italics instead), and wanted to read something else by Alameddine. There is not much of comparison between the two works. The multiple narrative perspectives are there in both books, Lebanon as seen by an expatriot, but the similarities end there.

Koolaids makes parallels between war-torn Lebanon and the gay community torn apart by the AIDS epidemic. The ma
Vivek Tejuja
Oct 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When you write a book about AIDS and what it brings in its wake, is not an easy task for sure. Rabih Alameddine jumped to the scene and was well-known right after “An Unnecessary Woman”. The book just jumped at readers and they I think too notice of him then. Of course before that, there was “Koolaids” and some more books that he had written but this discussion is about “Koolaids”.

To me reading “Koolaids” was a harrowing experience. Why? Because I am gay and I didn’t know how to react to a book
Apr 23, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
nonlinear and a little annoying.

this is the kind of book that people say that like because it gives them mad street cred, but really i'm too old and not artsy fartsy enough for that anymore. don't get me wrong, there were some powerful moments, but i got the impression the author knew they were powerful so that negates a bunch of it in my head.

what i did enjoy was the small bits of history and culture of a people that white kids like myself don't know enough about.
Aug 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gay-lit, best-of-2013
An ancient tale. Magical, incisive, dreamlike, floating among narrators in a fog of time, place and character. Blurring and blending hate, love, death and life, it is near biblical in its scope and essence. A deft and poetic exploration of tribes vs. the "other"--for without one the other cannot exist, of what it means to be a family--inherant and created, of loyalty--and where does/should loyalty lie... But ultimately about what it means to be human, homo sapien or just plain homo. Alameddine e ...more
Apr 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
4.3*. alameddine's first novel is quite challenging. it is challenging in form {non-linear, free form prose at times, poetry at times, you are never quite sure who is expressing their views at times} and in subject matter {the aids epidemic, the lebanese civil war and the meaning of life}. alameddine is very nationalistic but at the same time, hates the lebanese for hating him because he is a homosexual. it is an angry book as he hates equally israel and syria for how they are destroying his cou ...more
Monica Bond-Lamberty
Have loved the books by Rabih Alameddine so this was a disappointment compared to those.
Part of the problem for me was the constantly changing narrator (and I couldn't always tell who was who). So couldn't tell whose opinion on certain things I was hearing.
It was frustrating, but also went in with very high expectations and those are hard to live up to sometimes.
Trish Little
Mar 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
An amazing book!!! It read more like poetry than prose. AIDS and Lebanon are two things that I am not that familiar with but the humanity in which he writes about them makes them very familiar. He is at times hilarious and always irreverent. I enjoyed this book very much!
Sep 07, 2013 rated it liked it
I liked so many parts of this book, I just wish it's a little more cohesive, at times I didn't knew who the hell is narrating which part. I think I'll read it a few times,just to grasp it better.
meh. not nearly as good as his other books, you can tell it's his first novel. strongly recommend both hakawati and an unnecessary woman.
Sep 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
*Possible spoilers*

I just finished this book about fifteen minutes ago and I'm left speechless. I was going to wait until I woke up in the morning to write a review, but I feel like my initial reaction would be a better opinion. I'm not one to say that a book is my "favorite" and I haven't said a book was my favorite since I probably read Junot Díaz maybe three years ago?

I love books, movies, art, etc. that can make me feel something. I think there is a lot to be said about a book that can grab
Jan 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
On page 118 Alameddine explains the book: "I wanted to write an endless book of time. It would have no beginning and no end. It would not flow in order. The tenses would make so sense. A book whose first page is almost identical to the last, and all the pages in between are jumbled with an interminable story. A book which would make both Kant and Jung proud. I was not able to do it. Besides, I would have been copying the master. Borges did it before me."

This, of course, occurs after pages 37 and
Okay, how much bolder can you get than comparing the Lebanese Civil War to the AIDS crisis? Scathing, hilarious, and over-the-top-- from a painter who copies bad paintings of naked Asian boys to an analysis of Sodom and Gomorrah where Lot is the obvious pimp to a transition between checkpoints in Beirut and “the good old days” of condomless sex-- really, who doesn’t want to drink the Kool-Aid?

Oh -- and another painter whose sells abstract work for high-end US galleries, but really it’s not abstr
Sep 02, 2010 rated it it was ok
"Man is nothing more than giant genitalia for viruses."

"I yearn for a moment I know nothing of.

I pine for a feeling, as impression of myself as content, fulfilled. At times, I feel it as a yearning for a lover, someone to share my life with, someone to laugh with. I loved, lost, and loved again. The longing never abated. I was only distracted for a little while. I searched for the elusive grail.

In that moment, I envision myself joyous, spiritually felicitous. When I shut my eyes, I feel the poss
Jessika Malo
Oct 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
I bought this book as a gift for my American boyfriend to learn more about Lebanon and to get another perspective on its war (a different one than mine) and I bought one for myself to read simultaneously. I was not particularly interested in the war related stories because I am sickened by them but I was fond of the how the writer weaved the stories into each other and made the complex simple. His comments were sharp and straight to the point; his honesty very appreciated.
I was also fond of his
Karem Mahmoud
Dec 19, 2012 rated it liked it
It is a book raising AIDS, civil war in Lebanon, and conflicts amongst Lebanese territory for thirty years.
I like the structure and the form.
When it comes to content, I think it's full of rage, anger and negative signs in spite of some shining situations therein.
I had to read a university thesis explaining in detail the book and the thoughts raised within its pages.
I don't criticize the author for his approach, neither agree on it.
After all, there is a message to pass here. For me, the auth
Sarah Makarem
Feb 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Despite its fragmented narrative that is somehow hard to comprehend with multiple narrators, this book grants the reader a dramatic yet a genuine outlook of the Lebanese history,civil war and its community through the eyes of different personas shedding light on expatriates, homosexuality and the AIDS epidemic back in the late 80's early 90's. If you are a fan of puzzles, then you have picked the right book to trigger your mind with Alameddine exceptional narration.
May 31, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This book is dazzling. I love the way it's structured. I wrote an annotation on it and really loved the exploration of themes. I think the prose is pitch perfect and the way he writes about life is sharp and accurate.
Oct 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lit-fic
I want to read about living with, and dying of, AIDS! No no, I want to read about the Lebanese civil war! Thanks to this book, you can have both.
Aug 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I read it again for the third time. Amazing book. A literary feast for me. The tragedy of AIDS / the civil war in Lebanon / a mediation on life. The Arab world as you might not expect.
Weldon Ryckman
Sep 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Armed with an intense and comprehensive symbolic order, Koolaids marries form and content to weave a traumatic, fractured, and altogether visceral account of both the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco and the Lebanese Civil War.

From the epigraph 'I wonder if being sane means disregarding the chaos that is life, pretending only infinitesimal segment of it is reality,' readers are clued in Koolaids' mission: an absolution from responsibility to discern one narrator from another, one time from anothe
Sep 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Alameddine weaves together a tapestry of forms and voices. While I did not explicitly count the voices because I preferred to let them wash over me as a chorus, acknowledging their individuality, but moreso feeling the cathartic effect of their identities morphing into one–I did note the variety of forms. Jokes, screenplays, poems, memoir, vignette, story, character sketch, article, religious texts, letters, dreams, and diary entries is a somewhat complete list of the modes of writing he
Addyson Santese
While I was initially interested in deciphering the author's scramble of characters and nonlinear plot-lines, despite page after page of statements cautioning me against this, I eventually lost interest in trying to stitch the scraps together into the coherent quilt of a story. Multiple times, and from multiple voices, Alameddine illustrates his purpose of portraying life as chaotic, insignificant, and fragmented, not dominated by time or any other conventional dictations, yet I refused to liste ...more
Mark Alvarez
Sep 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Koolaids uses a compelling mix of first- and third-person microchapters that alternate between the civil war in Lebanon and the AIDS crisis in San Francisco’s LGBT community. The use of microchapters and the tendency for most to be told in the first-person point of view leads to an overall sense that every character is the narrator, or the extension of the narrator. Unlike similar novels that switch quickly between multiple POV’s, Alameddine’s novel does not always indicate which narrator is nar ...more
Blake Carrera
Sep 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Rabih Alameddine’s Koolaids is a novel that moves back and forth with relative ease between individual voices, religious text, and ruminations on art, literature, sex, and philosophy. Voices move back and forth, often without context and without the authorial kindness of giving the reader the knowledge of who is speaking. However, the relative anonymity is one of the things that Alameddine decides on not to confuse the reader (although that is often the result), but to give an anonymous voice to ...more
Mekenzie Dyer
Sep 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Koolaids is this kind of eclectic meeting of contradictory sides. This novel of vignettes brings together war and peace, death and survival, health and sickness, the sacred and the profane, East and West. There is so much to grab onto in this book. I feel like, as a westerner, there was so much I was unaware of with concerns to the conflict in Lebanon and Israel. Despite the war still raging today, I had no greater idea than "they just hate each other." And I feel like Alameddine's book brings t ...more
Sep 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Some Spoilers

Alameddine's novel depicts the life of four main characters in non-chronological order and details the AIDS epidemic, sexual exploration, the Lebanese war, and all of the other aspects of life within such tenuous times. Alameddine switches between narrators in the US and narrators in Beirut; both places dealing with completely separate wars at the time. This dualistic narration is also interrupted periodically with other anecdotal blurbs that serve usually to make a point; namely th
Janna Patterson
Sep 19, 2017 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Around the World: Lebanon - Lauren recommends Koolaids: The Art of War 1 9 Jan 05, 2012 07:45AM  
Readers Response 1 5 Apr 01, 2008 02:38PM  

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Rabih Alameddine (Arabic: ربيع علم الدين) was born in Amman, Jordan to Lebanese parents, and grew up in Kuwait and Lebanon. He was educated in England and America, and has an engineering degree from UCLA and an MBA from the University of San Francisco. ...more
“I wonder if being sane means disregarding the chaos that is life, pretending only an infinitesimal segment of it is reality.” 95 likes
“Saint Francis de Salle, not the real Saint Francis with the cute birds and animals, wrote that in his book Introduction to the Devout Life, which talked about how bad sex was in four large volumes. It earned Francis here a sainthood. All I can say is, I am glad I’m not Christian. For us Muslims, we just stone adulterers to death, which is much more humane than guilt.” 2 likes
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