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If I wanted to read a white dude navel gazing about how fought privilege is while obsessively discussing obscure topics, I would just read reddit for free.
It really doesn’t have enough flair in the prose to make it worth reading and definitely not enough plot to make this anything more than “author takes on the perspective of someone toxic purposefully” but without any flair or a hook.
Such a shame since Kaufman is one of my favorite screenwriters.
Antkind has the most ideas I’ve ever encountered in a novel. The sheer velocity of those ideas is truly a sight to behold. It shattered my mind, but also made me laugh on almost every page. It is filled with sadness and searching observations about...everything? It’s a profoundly interior book but simultaneously one of the most expansive things I’ve ever read. Kaufman’s prose is just beautiful.
It’s bananas. I think it might be a masterpiece, actually. It’s still growing in my brain. A monumental achievement.
Can thonself even write a review of a savage sendup of review/criticism culture? Would I not be playing directly into the author's point?
I'm evaluating this novel on two levels. The first and most important is entertainment level--this book was crazy funny. Like, seriously, how often do you laugh out loud when reading a novel? I lol-ed on average every few pages, minimum. At first I wasn't sure if I was happy with the book because I was so entertained, but I was asking myself, "but will there be more...substance?" More on that in part 2. I still have to talk about how funny this book was. And it's absolutely signature Charlie Kaufman--the transition from screen writing to novel writing seems completely seamless. It's dizzying, maddening, confusing, maniacally recursive...and if you like Kaufman, that's what you're here for. And I was HERE for it. The obvious peer to this book is A Confederacy of Dunces. I have to believe that Kaufman was somewhat inspired by that book. I won't say it's better, because I need to sit and marinate in this story over the next decade and see how it turns out. One really helpful takeaway I took is that there are just so many throw away one-liners, which is awesome. But when you see those in his movies you think "is there a deeper meaning there, is that a plot twist?" et chetera when something crazy happens (like when the wife in Synechdoche reveals her surprise full back tattoo). So this helps me when watching his movies that if something insanely funny but also zany/unrealistic happens it's just Charlie making us laugh and you don't necessarily need to parse for deeper meaning. But of course it always also works on the level that reality is fully absurd and we should not be taking it seriously, at all. That's ALWAYS Charlie's point.
Second level of analysis--how did this work as a story? You know, the more I sit back and kind of think, the more connections I see. Just as with his movies, I'm sure that repeat readings are highly, highly rewarded. As soon as a finished I went back to the beginning, as, sure enough, things that were weird upon first reading will now make sense.
The thing is--the book is perfect. It's not perfect in that it probably could be 400-500 pages, and sometimes the crazy is so thick to even exasperate the most diehard Kaufman fan--but that's the thing. Charlie is singular, and can only be compared to thonself. In the end Charlie weaves a story to make the points he always returns to--we're all crazy and cracked, how can we really know anything, best that we just do the best we can and let others do the same--BUT, even though that's the answer, we always screw it up. We miss each other, miss the point, we're vainly ambitious, and we're pretty much hopeless--yet we do experience moments of beauty and bliss, and life is actually pretty funny if you don't take it too seriously.
A brilliantly funny book of race and gender in present day America. As wind blows through its pages, I cannot help but to catch the scent of John Kennedy Toole and even The Coen Brothers. I cannot put it down.
I think the real audacity of a something like this is that somebody surely told Charlie Kaufman at some point "hey Charlie, you understand that people are going to be wildly repulsed by the opening say...300 pages?" Apparently that didn't bother him as he spun this story that begins with what could generously be called a stretched and warped version of reality shown through the eyes of a completely unlikable protagonist and eventually transforms into something that operates on pretty much pure metaphor (again, if you're being generous) and loses all sense of "plot" in the traditional sense.
I mean, I suppose I have to give the guy kudos for not making this something easily digestible. I don't blame anyone for not making it to the end of Antkind even slightly. If you do push through it I would recommend treating it like a wacky, hallucinogenic roller coaster. One page this crazy thing happens! Two pages later we're doing something completely different and even more crazy! Plot threads are folded in on one another and twisted and tied into knots that Kaufman only really appears to have a halfhearted desire to untie once he's tied them.
You could make the argument that there are big chunks of this thing that could be cut out. Our lead character goes on long, overblown side trips of becoming obsessed with various women and driving himself insane in various ways along the way, and most of that could be neatly excised from the text and Kaufman's ultimate points would still shine through. I'm sure Kaufman himself would claim that every absurdist element present here is necessary, and I would be lying if I didn't at least appreciate almost every page of this book for the sheer circus act that Kaufman forces his words to perform. Long sentences, puns on top of puns, mutating well known words for no purpose other than to seemingly give them an alien quality and make them feel all the less real and relevant to our world (except for Judd Apatow, Kaufman has some BEEF with Judd Apatow, but he has even more beef with himself apparently).
In the end, if the words and the absurdity have carried you all the way through this thing you will have realized that the message that is being evoked here is really the same message Kaufman always brings to the table: a meditation on life's meaning, the quest to be seen and loved and validated, and how that is ultimately our curse.
There are beautiful moments of writing sprinkled all throughout this thing, wonderful moments of real poetry that I imagine would speak to any reader. The trouble is they are little tiny pearls stuffed into the diseased, rotting mind of an unlikable protagonist, and so it will certainly try your patience to get there.
I would recommend it if you're up for some adventurous writing from somebody who is undoubtedly a brilliant writer that has some stuff to say, but has no interest in saying that stuff even remotely coherently. Many have claimed that this book is proof that Kaufman works best when collaborating with another director in film, and I don't necessarily disagree. This is a mind that is uncomfortable to spend long periods of time in, and needs a filter to a degree. But if you're the adventurous type, go for it. At the very least I think everyone who has read this thing in full can agree it is pretty unlike anything you have ever read before.
This is perhaps my all time favorite book. I’ve never been a huge fan of reading fiction in the past, but I decided to give it another go because of my love of Mr. Kaufman’s films. He is perhaps the most original and most insightful screen-writer of our time, and his ability to bring the bizarre to life transfers over beautifully in novel form. A masterwork of modern fiction. It has granted me a renewed love for the genre. Thank you, Charlie! I look forward to your next creative endeavor.
At what point does a running joke become a walk, a slog or a crawl? I am not sure but Antkind gets there and beyond. At seven-hundred pages the book is a brick. The pages have words, my God, so many words. In order to maintain consciousness I had to divert my readings, so while I was slowly turning the pages in Charlie’s book I read Robert Walser’s A Schoolboy’s Diary, Mary Trump’s Too Much and Never Enough, the complete poetry of Thom Gunn, Rules of Civility by Amor Towles, the first two volumes of Ben Winters’ The Last Policeman trilogy, a couple of New Yorker short stories, and about half of Notebooks 1936-1947 by Victor Serge. I did maintain, however the more I read Antkind the longer the book seemed to get, as if there were several hundred unnumbered pages tucked in between the regular pages. As a part of the N CoVid 19 experience Antkind seems appropriate, if not necessary. My conclusion after reading to the very last period is—“I am the projector!”
What a slog this was. I’m still trying to understand how this mess got published, not to mention why the Amazon algorithms recommended this for me after reading David Mitchell’s Utopia Avenue.
There were a few very creative and funny sections, but overall I never understood where this was going. After 600 plus pages of loosely hung together short stories, the resolution came in the last half a chapter. The overall impression was the author was on deadline, had met the minimum page count, and hit send.
I admit to not reading the entire 90 chapters, but only a few. I think the narrative is so silly while I'm sure the author believes he's very clever. I like higher level thinking, but this read doesn't flatter my tastes. I was misled by high-sounding reviews.
A completely self-absorbed writer on films is unexpectedly shown the life-work of a Florida janitor, a weeks-long stop-motion animated film with incredibly detailed and realistic sets and stop-motion puppets. The creator of the film dies after showing it to the writer, who then packs the film and whatever puppets he can locate into a rental truck, with the inevitable result that, due to his imbecility, the film is destroyed except for a single frame, and the writer is seriously burned, spending months in the hospital in a medically-induced coma. When he revives he can't remember anything about the film. That's the basic premise, sketched out in the first few dozen pages, that drives the rest of the novel. Our narrator was never in his right mind, and is even worse off after the disaster. When he returns to NYC, reality collapses around him. Attempts to remember the film, using hypnosis, are an occasion for the book's author to present hundreds of wild comedy skits... that is, they would be comedy skits if the author had any sense of humor. In such an enormous collection of completely disconnected episodes, there are bound to be some that any given reader might like, but they might be few and far between. The author is aware of these problems, and spends time on every page waving to personal friends in the audience. [The classic mark of a stand-up routine that is flopping totally.] Those familiar with Kaufman's film career will note how he has made extensive use of the ideas behind two of his own films, Synecdoche, New York (2008), in which a crazed producer creates a version of NYC in a gigantic warehouse and peoples it with actors hired to live roles 24-7, and Anomalisa (2015), a stop-motion animated film with photorealistic puppets.
I don't remember laughing during the entire long process of reading this heavy volume, but I did smile a few times. There are some really bizarre and esoteric versions of the Abbott and Costello "Who's on first?" skit, and various worthy nuggets buried (sometimes deeply) here and there. The meaning of the novel's title, ANTKIND, emerges only in the last few pages. You may not ever make it that far.
Anyway, this work could serve as an ostensive definition of "self-indulgent."