Friday, March 11, 2011

The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson

The Finkler Question won the 2010 Man Booker Prize for fiction. Many people a lot smarter than I am have analyzed this book in depth, so I’m not going to do that. Any book about self-hating Jews and antisemitism is bound to generate a lot of discussion and I am certain that I have nothing new to add. A quick Google search will yield a zillion articles, both in the popular and the scholarly press, so if you want high level discussion, go there instead of here.

As I’ve said before, I am just interested in the reading experience, and for me, this reading experience was less than satisfying. Here are some good things about this book: The narrator is funny and has a strong original voice. He manages his characters with an ironic detachment, and provides amusing commentary on them, which I enjoyed. Here are some bad things: These unpleasant characters just go on and on and on and they never shut up. Hardly anything ever happens except for a few nasty incidents that get blown out of proportion by the self-absorbed people who experience them. I couldn’t stand those parts.

Apparently this book is a roman a clef, with several characters who are obvious parodies of well-known British academics and pundits. Since I am almost totally unfamiliar with the 21st century British intelligentsia, all those references passed me by completely. If you want, you could try to explore that angle, too, but I can’t be bothered. I’ve had enough of these folks.

(Book 7, 2010)


Vintage Reading said...

My book group all disliked this novel. I can't comment because I didn't even read it - just doesn't appeal to me.

Amused said...

I usually try to read the winner of this prize every year but when I saw what they picked I just kind of new it wasn't for me. I think you've confirmed that.

Justine said...

I'm with you Becky. Totally disappointed by this one!

Shelley said...

Unpleasant characters that never shut up: isn't that a definition of most contemporary fiction?

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