Posted by: roamingolivia | October 13, 2010

A note on the Booker Prize, or why I might not be human


If you look at reviews for last night’s Man Booker Prize winner, you basically get all positive reviews from every publication in… well, the world – from the FT to the Guardian to whatever. Meanwhile, my review on Goodreads starts with: “I am not sure I have ever disliked a book as much as I dislike this book.” I hated this book. It is not funny. Most books are a little bit funny, at least accidentally, but this book – oh, excuse me, this “comic novel” is actually not at all funny. Ever. To me, at least. (I didn’t post that scathing review on this blog because I feared it may be a bit… controversial.)

I have found very few people who disagree with me, however. A search for Finkler Question terrible came up with mostly positive reviews as well (Google is notoriously inaccurate). But also came up with KevinfromCanada, who also did not like this book, and is a lone beacon on a dark night that makes me think I might still be human.

I rarely have this feeling, and it is disconcerting: basically, everyone in the world loved a book I did not like. They apparently found it amusing, and funny, and actually I really hated it and found it had neither of those traits.

The only other time I felt this way was at a concert for a “comedic” singer-songwriter, whose name I immediately forgot but he sang about Luton so I just Googled him easily. Literally everyone in the performance hall – and there were a lot of people, although it was not full – was laughing hysterically. David and I were not only not laughing but had no idea why these people thought this was funny.

It’s not that I don’t think things are funny. I laugh at things, and I like (some) comedy, etc. So when I honestly feel confused when something shows up that appears to be universal, and yet I don’t understand it, I feel… somehow not human. It’s interesting.

Have you experienced this? With what?

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Responses

  1. I read your review of this book, and it sounds like some sort of awful trivialization of an early Philip Roth novel. There is an awful and hyper self-aware school of modern Jewish writers who specialize in supposedly comedic presentations of the Stereotypical Male Jew as obsessive, persecution-complex, fearful, clueless with women (although in the novel, of course, with many conquests), and always preoccupied with being a Jew. Basically, Woody Allen.

    As a Jewish male, I’m tired of books and movies presented Jewish males as Woody Allen.

    I read your review; this book sounds horrible, and I will never read it. Thank you. In conclusion, you are human.

  2. Your review is amazing. It almost makes me want to read the book, if only so I can go back and re-read your review and share in the hatred. (It sounds like a book I would not much care for either.)

    I have had similar experiences, first with Richard Yates by Tao Lin, which I have been told repeatedly is a work of genius that I just don’t get for a variety of reasons, and also with Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs, which everyone said was so hilarious and so darkly comic. I read that book and was like, yep, child abuse is SO hilarious, tell me that joke about the dead baby again?

  3. I felt this way when I first saw 30 Rock…

  4. I also want to read this book so I can properly appreciate your review. But I’ve basically stopped reading so, to share re Finkler Q,
    review yesterday in Evening Standard
    “For my own part, I can only report that his emphatic, mannered, and over-knowing prose never once struck me as actually funny.”
    http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23887253-outsider-howard-jacobson-wins-man-booker-prize.do


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