April 4, 2012
I don’t read books. As a rule, the only books I read are the my own collection of short stories and narrative poetry (they are unpublished because it’s so good, your brain would literally explode when you read them, and I would then be charged with murder)
When people ask me what’s the last book I read, or what my favourite book is, I usually have a couple of stock answers. If I’m in the company of hard-core, Woolworth’s and E-TV hating Christians, then my favourite book is obviously the King James Bible.
For everyone else, it’s “American Psycho” by Bret Easton Ellis (I read this book once when I was 4 years old, but I often throw this name out because it makes me sound cool and edgy)
Having said all that, the other day I was reluctantly talked into reading what was described to me as “the most amazing book you will read this year” by both family members and friends. This immediately unsettled me, as I am seldom amazed, especially by a book.
I went ahead and started reading it though, as The Girlfriend had packed away my own volumes of prose, and I needed something to entertain and amuse me. So I began “Shantaram” by the author Gregory David Roberts. It’s about an Australian bank robber and drug addict who escapes from an Australian prison and heads off to India.
It’s portrayed as a vivid, epic adventure but I can honestly say it’s the most boring, dragged out story I have ever read. I have often made ballsy statement like “I would rather stab myself than do xyz” but after spending time with this book, the kitchen carving knife really did start looking pretty appealing. The book itself is about 2000 pages long, and weighs about 15kg, so it’s a lengthy read. I gave it my best shot and got to about 400 pages before giving up. You would think by this point, I would be fairly far into the plot, but no, I still don’t really know where the story is going. The author has an annoying habit of describing everything to the last detail, and writes out long conversations between characters as they talk about philosophical psycho babble that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the story.
I don’t often write about books, and this isn’t a book review, but I just thought I’d warn you about this, as Shantaram seems to be quite popular for some reason and is being passed around various groups of friends like a 19 year old chick who’s had to much Jagermeister. (I call it the “Emporer’s New Clothes Effect” – everyone is to afraid to speak up and say what a shit book it is)
There are a few people who seem to agree with me though, here with a couple of random Amazon Reviews I found:
“Overlong, overwritten, over-self-conscious and under-edited, Shantaram is a book that almost sinks under its own weight. While the details on the slums and the criminal underworld of Bombay are fascinating, the second-rate epigrams of Karla and Didier, the endless uncalled-for philosophical symposia, and the final jaunt to Afghanistan all became a bit too much and I was skipping pages by the end.”
“Terribly boring, neverending, unauthentic with a main character who is a sort of smug Superman having more (unrealistic) adventures than Indiana Jones in all of his pictures. Mr Shantaram is polyglot, half medical doctor, businessman, smuggler, writer, poet…. I have been looking forward to finishing this novel: a neurosis of mine obliges me to finish a book I am reading even if I find it a bore and when I put this volume back on the shelf I felt very relieved.”
“Shantaram is an ambitious novel. Unfortunately, Gregory David Roberts’ 900+ pages of ambition suffers from a lack of competent editing, or perhaps from no editing at all. To be sure, there are sections of the book that are engaging and fascinating, such as those that describe Lin’s (the protagonist) experiences as a Bombay slum doctor or his visits to the Standing Babas and his friend Prubaker’s village. But there are an equal number of dull, repetitive and poorly written passages. Roberts’ tendency to describe what every female character is wearing in every scene is mind-numbing, as is his tendency to write about the femme fatale’s black hair and green eyes ad nauseam.”
So if you are someone who happens to read, and someone mentions this book to you, punch them in the face.
Tell them it was from me.
Oakes signing off.
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