I realise that’s a contentious title, but I have to come clean about the last book we read in Book Club.
It was awful. No, worse than awful, it was dreadful. Hang on, scratch dreadful. In fact, the more I think about it, it was fucking abysmal.
Last month’s book was Life: A user’s guide by George Perec. If you’ve read this book and loved it, it’s probably best that you look away now or, better still, reply at the foot of the post explaining why I’m a foolish thrill seeker looking for fun where there clearly is none and deep meaning where there is monotony. If, on the other hand, you’ve read this and hated it – read on and enjoy the vitriol.
But seriously, this book sucked. Big time. Never have I read a book so diametrically opposed to engaging the reader with the author adopting an almost unreadable modernist style that meant every single page was the hardest reading yards I’ve ever done. There was no dialogue whatsoever, no light and shade in his writing – just shade. Page after page of tedious descriptive text which to give him some credit was moderately interesting, in an autistic obsessive kind of way.
The book paints a ludicrously detailed picture of a Parisian apartment building and all the people who live in it. That in itself would have been a feat I can tell you, but Perec decides to not only tell those stories but those of every other family that has ever lived there. It would have been one of the great feats of modern literature for the author to pull this off this vast tableau of stories successfully. But unfortunately for me, he didn’t.
And then there was the size. The sheer number of pages the book took to unfold its layers of tediousity mocked me daily. We make a point of not de-selecting books if they are large – in fact some of the best books we have ever read scared us with the point size of the book or the page count. But Perec took page count to a whole new level of tedium, filling the pages with meaningless drivel and thankfully page after page of OCD type lists that could be skipped easily (and by the way, his style of writing meant there weren’t many opportunities to skip pages, believe you me I did try).
So were there any positives? As ever, the evening discussion inevitably led to some insight and enlightenment for me. But to be honest I wasn’t buying it. There weren’t any scores above 5/10 which is rare, bottoming out with my big fat zero – which is a first for me, king of the optimists. Some of the other chaps were gamely digging out gems that gave the author far too much leeway and whilst I accept the writing style, subject matter and sheer quantity was a major barrier to my getting anything out of this experience, my failure to connect was in itself interesting and hilarious in equal measure.
Under no circumstances read this book, or attempt to read this book. It’s hours of your life that will never, ever come back.
By the way, this is what the author looks like – I rest my case.