24 June 2012

Comically weird

I am really lucky. If I'd read Kate Atkinson's first novel before reading her mysteries, I might never have had the great pleasure of meeting Jackson Brodie and getting involved in the messy realities of his fictional life. That first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, won the Whitbread First Novel Award and the Whitbread Book of the Year Award.

That book didn't win any awards from me. I couldn't get through it.

But I really enjoyed reading the four mysteries she wrote. And I enjoyed the BBC rendition of a couple of them. I enjoyed them so much, that I picked up her third book when I was last at the library. It is Emotionally Weird, A Comic Novel.

Okay, I'll give it the comic label. There are some funny bits. Not many, but some. While reading the first half of it, I was reminded of what I've heard about Seinfeld. You have to understand, I've seen bits of Seinfeld, but never a whole half hour's worth. I've chuckled at some bits, but not many. I've heard it said that it was a situation comedy about nothing. As a very casual observer, I'll buy that. And Emotionally Weird, A Comic Novel is also about nothing -- at least in the first half that I read.

The narrator's boy friend epitomizes the book for me. She said in an early chapter:
I shut the door and went back to bed and the warm, slack body of Bob with whom I lived in urban squalor in a festering tenement attic in Paton's Lane...
Bob, known by some as "Magic Bob,"... was in fact an unmagic Essex boy Ilford born and bred...
Like me, Bob was a student at Dundee University... He seldom handed in an essay and considered it a point of honour never to go to a lecture and instead lived the slow life of a nocturnal sloth, smoking dope, watching television and listening to Led Zeppelin...
Bob's sense of humour... had been developed the Goons and honed by The Monkees. Bob's screen hero was Mickey Dolenz...
Bob was an unreconstructed kind of person... he had a complete lack of interest in anything that involved a sustained attention span... He was prone to the usual obsessions and delusions of boys his age -- the Klingons, for example, were as real for Bob as the French or the Germans, more real certainly than, say, Luxemburgers...
In the first half of the book, Bob is easily the most distinct character. If you read the quote above, you got a good taste of Atkinson's humor. And, for me, the description of Bob could be a description of the book.

Now, I can't assert that with any assurance because I didn't read the whole book -- just the first half. By page 200, I was tired of reading about an unmagic group of people who lived slow lives of nocturnal sloths. As much as I appreciate some science fiction fantasy and the craziness of The Monkees, I would rather have watched a Seinfeld marathon than finish the book about nothing.

Any chance that you have read Emotionally Weird, A Comic Novel? What did you think of it? Write and tell this little bit of the world about your reactions.

Other reviews (there are distinct differences of opinion here)

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