Lp's Reviews > Prague

Prague by Arthur Phillips
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M 50x66
's review
Aug 03, 2007

did not like it

I'm with the reviewer who wants a medal for finishing this book. It was a slog, during which I kept stopping to read reviews to figure out what on earth I was missing. The promo copy compared the author to Proust and Joyce. Reviewers likened him to Kundera. To me his work resembled nothing more than pretentious freshman ramblings designed to impress writing professors.

I am here to tell you, the emperor has no clothes. This is a boring book, peopled by worthless two-dimensional (and that's being generous) characters, save one, who gets precious little ink. One reviewer said he could have done without section II, which introduces this one character of substance, a Hungarian printer. If it hadn't been for this section, I wouldn't have finished the book (hey maybe I could have done without section II after all!). The author's one gift comes out in his lists. At least you know there is some structure, and that it will end at some point. Unfortunately, there are only two or three lists in the book.

His voice is very inconsistent. There are these extremely dry attempts at circuitous, self-consciously poetic humor (which for the most part fail) at the same time as there are these gee-whiz takes on things that I think are supposed to be suprising that most of us who hadn't fallen asleep figured out 100 pages ago. Unless this is some postmodern attempt at...postmodernism? In which case, yawn.

The person who recommended this book to me, whose tastes I otherwise respect, found it very funny. I didn't get the humor at all.

Some mention was made, too, of it being a "Gen-x novel." And that that was a possible reason for my not liking the book. Oh, please. I'm not so old that I can't see Gen-X from here, but if it is a book about a generation, I definitely feel for the young-uns for being so....boring! One of the characters likens the losers who are wasting their ex-pat opportunities to the "Lost Generation" of ex-pats in Paris and Berlin in the 20s and 30s. This struck me as ridiculously funny, but not in the context of the story an a misguided character, but because I think the author really meant it.

Of course this could just be the author being smarter than any of us. Ha ha. Still, I doubt it. In the middle of my struggle with this book, I happened to hear the author reading some story about a guy's tryst with an Eastern European spy/prostitute on "This American Life." I didn't find his voice any more compelling when I could actually hear it. Not to mention his story-telling abilities.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
August 1, 2007 – Finished Reading
August 3, 2007 – Shelved

Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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message 1: by Karetchko (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:02PM) (new)

Karetchko I got kind of bored with this book as well...though there's one thing about it that rang true for me. When I told people, in 1994, that I was moving to Poland for a job, about 50% of the people I told would go, "Oh! Prague is supposed to be wonderful!" So the fact that the book entitled Prague actually takes place in Budapest entertains me. We all really did just want to live somewhere cool like Prague instead (though I think Budapest rocks).

Oh, and I liked that the author uses the word "comprise" correctly.

message 2: by Lp (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:02PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Lp Anyone who's won on "Jeopardy!" 5 times should at least be able to use the word "comprise" correctly!

message 3: by Phyl (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:03PM) (new)

Phyl Thanks for the review! I'll certainly know better than ever to allow it on any "to be read" list now.

message 4: by Kate (new) - rated it 1 star

Kate Hear hear! A jaunt in Eastern Europe does not a Kundera progeny make.

Rebecca I'm glad I'm not the only one struggling by page 80, it's slow and choopy, but yet for some reason I have a strong desire to finish it - must be something in that? Maybe...

message 6: by Amy (new) - rated it 1 star

Amy Oh my gosh, so glad to read this. I just finished section 1 and I'm going to give up, something I very, very rarely do with books. I just can't like this book, and I'm really surprised by all the glowing reviews.

Jericha This is PRECISELY how I felt upon finishing. Thank you.

Caren I totally agree with this review. I just finished the second section and I'm about to start section three. For some reason I always finish reading the books I start. I guess it's my compulsive nature. But if there was ever a book I put down this would be it.
The characters are not likable, the story is boring and the writing is uneven. The tremendously long, tight paragraphs with little or no dialogue make for a very tedious read.

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