I generally don’t see reading fiction as similar to a failing computer, but after hitting four novels from the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award straight after finishing four from the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, I started to think I was getting a little jaded. I was becoming hyper critical. A novel that would generally rate five stars was getting a lukewarm response from me as it had a slight flaw or was just not as gripping or engaging as the masterpiece I’d read before it. In a world of Dan Brown being the number 1 best seller on name alone, online stores filled with cheap, passable (an in some cases downright unreadable) fiction I was bemoaning a novel that had won the Costa Book of the year for not doing as much as it could have. I had maybe lost my marbles (note the “maybe”).
So it was time for me to Alt-Ctrl-Del. I decided a local novel that was going to be reviewed as part of our Australian Broadcasting Commission’s Local Radio Book Club would make a nice change. I could read it, submit a review and see if the general population agreed with my learned opinions. “The Rosie Project” it was….
Have you ever been in one of those awkward moments where you go to meet the parents of a newborn, you see the tiny little babe and your first thought is “That is the ugliest child I’ve seen” or “I thought Rosemary’s Baby was fiction” and your second thought is “ahh, how cute…he looks just like his…..oh no what do I say now? Dad’s ugly but he might belt me, mum’s ugly too but you can’t offend a female about such things….ummmm….siblings….cousins….” It’s a bit like reviewing a book that really has bugger all to offer. This one was six years in the making, you can’t go all savage now, some poor “former” IT consultant, has put his life and soul into his first novel, THIS IS HIS FIRST BORN.
So here goes. An annoying caricature who is that thinly veiled as autistic or suffering from Asperger’s is presented as our “anti-hero” the disorder signs and his whole manner are meant to be humorous, so a whole section of the community who suffer social issues are now demeaned. This “lovable” rogue obviously has no real friends and he plans his day to the minute, refers to every person he meets by their BMI rating and after a few failed blind or internet dates and stumbling from a visit to lecture a group of “Aspies” he magically believes that the best way to meet his life partner would be to set up a “Wife Project” where he can circulate a questionnaire and find his perfect match. A bit like answering an internet questionnaire about your dating preferences but with a bit more venom.
Throughout my life I have been criticised for a perceived lack of emotion, as if this were some absolute fault. Interactions with Psychiatrists and psychologists – even including Claudia – start from the premise that I should be more ‘in touch’ with my emotions. What they really mean is that I should give in to them. I am perfectly happy to detect, recognise and analyse emotions. This is a useful skill and I would like to be better at it. Occasionally an emotion can be enjoyed – the gratitude I felt for my sister who visited me even during the bad times, the primitive feeling of well-being after a glass of wine – but we need to be vigilant that emotions do not cripple us.
I diagnosed brain overload and set up a spreadsheet to analyse the situation.
Of course our hero works with a so-called friend who has a large sexual appetite and a challenge to sleep with as many women from different nations as possible. Of course he’ll help our poor demented fool, there’s something in it for him.
To cut a long story short our hero meets the totally incompatible Rosie, she doesn’t know her real father’s identity so our superman (being a genetic scientist who pay attention to everything except ear lobe sizes or eye colour apparently) helps her collect DNA from 30 odd possible fathers. In the meantime they fall in love.
This child isn’t totally horrendously ugly, the writing isn’t poor, the story is set in Melbourne, there are a few laughs at other’s expense of course and it helped me to appreciate the writing I’ve been slowly growing accustomed to. Await the film, it will be better than “Death in Brunswick” but not a lot.
The 2013 Miles Franklin Literary Award Winner
Today the Trust Company announced Michelle de Kretser as the winner of the 2013 Miles Franklin LiteraryAward for her novel “Questions of Travel”. Speaking on behalf of the judges Richard Neville said “Michelle de Kretser’s wonderful novel, Questions of Travel, centres on two characters, with two stories, each describing a different journey. The stories intertwine and pull against one another, and within this double narrative, de Kretser explores questions of home and away, travel and tourism, refugees and migrants, as well as ‘questions of travel’ in the virtual world, charting the rapid changes in electronic communication that mark our lives today.”
For a full report see http://www.milesfranklin.com.au/news or for the shorlist visit an earlier post on my blog at http://messybooker.blogspot.com.au/2013/05/miles-franklin-award-2013-shortlist.html