Christina (A Reader of Fictions)'s Reviews > Narcopolis

Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil
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's review
Apr 23, 2012

it was ok

That Narcopolis is not like the average work of fiction becomes apparent almost immediately. The book opens with a prologue consisting of only one sentence. A seven page sentence. The prologue was actually my favorite part, because it is so beautifully crafted. I read it to myself silently once and then aloud, and it really does have a great rhythm to it.

The book calls to mind, not the first time a book has done so since I've maintained this blog, my class on counterculture, which focused primarily on the Beats, but also included authors like William S. Burroughs and Henry Miller. Narcopolis definitely has a bit of the feel of Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer, although with an Indian flair, perhaps influences of Salman Rushdie (although since I have not actually had time to read one of his books all the way through yet, I can not say that for sure, but the opening did remind me of his style in what I read of Midnight's Children).

I was not a big fan of most of the books I read in my counterculture class. Had I had the blog back then, most of them would have been rated a 2 or lower, with the exceptions of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, perhaps Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and an Andy Warhol book. Narcopolis I definitely enjoyed more than most. Like Fear and Loathing, much of the book is about existing in a drug-soaked haze, and the crazy things that happen as a result, however, other sections are amazingly clear-headed, concise philosophy and observations on the human condition.

Perhaps I do not need to point out that this is not a book for someone easily offended by, well, most things. There's a lot of drug-doing obviously, sex, violence, and swearing. Although I usually don't go too quote crazy, I'm going to include a couple here to show you examples of the insightful moments I found so moving, as well as to allow you to get a sense of Thayil's style.

" 'My religion is no way of knowing me.' " (214)

"Drugs are a bad habit, so why do it? Because, said Dimple, it isn't the heroin that we're addicted to, it's the drama of the life, the chaos of it, that's the real addiction and we never get over it; and because when you come down to it, the high life, that is, the intoxicated life, is the best of the limited options offered." (228-9)

I especially adore that quote in reference to religion. Maybe it should have been my favorite, but, really, there were a lot of amazing bits in here. So, basically, don't let my relatively low rating scare you away. I'm not really the perfect audience for this, what with not being remotely interested in drugs and not being a huge fan of counterculture literature. Even with that in mind, though, I can heartily recommend this with a clear conscience to anyone who liked reading those things.
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Quotes Christina (A Reader of Fictions) Liked

Jeet Thayil
“My religion is no way of knowing me.”
Jeet Thayil, Narcopolis

Jeet Thayil
“You've got to face facts and the fact is life is a joke, a fucking bad joke, or, no, a bad fucking joke. There's no point taking it seriously because whatever happens, and I mean whatever the fuck, the punch line is the same: you go out horizontally. You see the point? No fucking point.”
Jeet Thayil, Narcopolis
tags: life

Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Katie (new)

Katie So, if you have this... can I borrow it? :-D

Christina (A Reader of Fictions) I gave it away when I finished it.

message 3: by Katie (new)

Katie Okie doke! It sounds really interesting. Think I'm going to see if the library has it.

Christina (A Reader of Fictions) Not really my thing, but really well done for those who are a bit more into trippy fiction.

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