Insult to injury, I can’t find a bingo category for this one.
Anyway. The Last Samurai, by Helen DeWitt. Apparently first published in 2000, I guess it started popping up again recently because it was put back into print. The gist is that it sent me running for the Cannonball FAQs to see at what point I could throw in the towel, but then it started to be a little less insufferable so I finished it. Not a good enough reason, as it turns out.
I found myself continually wondering if I was really that dumb or the book was really that pretentious and now that I’m googling it and seeing an overwhelming number of articles calling it a “masterpiece” and “the book of the century” … I’m still not sure. Sometimes people call something great so they don’t look stupid. I think. Fuck it.
Look, this is SO hard to get into. The style of the book feels deliberately difficult. Sometimes chapters have little breaks because the scene is over but not the chapter, you know, and it’s clearly indicated. DeWitt just blasts right past that nicety and starts you in a whole new direction just on the next line. And dialogue is all over the place, no quotation marks anywhere – multiple people speaking in the same paragraph, a single person speaking across multiple paragraphs, it’s impossible to track without seven colors of highlighter. Then in some places she uses & in place of “and” and stylizes it to end paragraphs so they read like this &
Like this &
Like this for all of a few lines &
Then it’s over.
The book is about a boy genius and an author who clearly thinks she’s a genius and I was just driven so crazy by it. There are some interesting interactions between characters later in the book, and the Red Devlin is probably my favorite of the bunch, but I would have been better served parting ways far sooner.