Banao strikes like lightning!
I think I'm in a fight with carmyarmyofme now. Or I will be by the time I finish writing this, because I don't have anything nice to say about the book I got from her via the Eleven-Books Club's white elephant gift exchange. I won't go on & on about it but...this was not my cup of tea. Carmen wrote a note in the front of it-- very clever-- saying that it was her pick because it was a book she liked that had characters that she disliked, which has been a book club topic. I don't think it will blow anyone's mind that I agree that the characters are very unlikable-- the neo-Nazi, the rapist, the alcoholic & the kid-- but um...I'd go the extra inch & say I really disliked the book, too. You know what it reminds me of? Michel Houellebecq, who I also dislike (except for his essay on Lovecraft, which is great). They are part of a certain European tradition. I don't know how to articulate that thought but there is a "thing" in common, a paradigm that seems related. You know, male with contempt for women, with openly racist opinions, safely fictional...but in a book where the authorial voice never contradicts them. Let's put it to brass tacks: we get the humanizing viewpoint passages from the point of view of the neo-Nazi father, an abusive scumbag. We get it for the kid, & the shitty social worker, & the drunkard, & we don't get it from women. We get a chapter from a young teenager's point of view in which they implausibly talk about how they only want to taunt men with their sexuality, & then the other time you get to see her perspective? Is when one of the other protagonists rapes her to death.
A thing I like to rant about frequently is the sorry state of drama. Oscar bait, that sort of thing. Creators who try to make "feel bad" art as a short cut to being taken seriously...& are invariably rewarded for it, when they are just shock jocks. "Throw in some Nazis! Dead babies! Rapists & eating poop!" Like teenage rebellion. The equivalent in comedy would be...fart jokes. I find it juvenile & sophomoric most of the time, & if it isn't, then...you just made me feel bad with a suckerpunch? No points for that. Yeah, it is stressful to read about a girl being raped & murdered, but that isn't like...a testament to your craft. Oh & in the case of As God Commands I don't even like the structure; this meandering story where everyone you meet is the worst, in a vaguely believable way, & their narrow, intolerant outlook is reflected in the book. It is a story that climaxes in the middle with tawdry cheap tragedy & then (like one of the characters) it lingers on in a sort of half-life, a coma. The book acts like it is "asking questions" with its open-ended conclusion, but all I read was "does not have a thesis." The point is, what, there are poor people in Italy with terrible lives, who do terrible things, & the cycle of abuse is self-reinforcing? Well, sure, & water is wet. Ugh, & it is a book about "men"? Poor marks all around. Luckily for me, I'm sure that's no skin of her nose!