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Kaufman needs collaborators and a visionary editor. He's like the fissile material in a nuclear weapon: shaped and guided he turns vast swaths of everyday emptiness into glowing, fraught, open fields. Left on his own he indiscriminately floods us with deadly noise and sinks into a pit of radioactive slag. I absolutely respect and admire him, which is why I hate this book.
The protagonist of this novel (who would repeatedly bore you with trite linguistic and literary commentary on the terms 'protagonist' and 'novel' and then on 'terms' and imply all gestures, transactions, or equivalences are somehow corrupt) isn't an anti-hero, he is the denial of the possibility of maturity, an insistence on the inauthenticity of benevolence. With extra verbiage about racial and sexual injustice that is simultaneously so overwrought and counter to his actual choices that...
My God it tires me out. I quit 71 pages in. I love "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and "Being John Malkovich". Supported "Anomalisa" on Kickstarter and watched the first ten minutes but both my wife and daughter hated it and I had to admit they quickly detected what I only reluctantly and queasily accepted: just because something accurately displays stupid small human behavior doesn't make it, well, anything.
Which brings me back to Antville. It isn't anything, so skip it. I hope Kaufman does more, and better, and floods us with light - clever, reactive, inviting and baleful, exposing potential and limitation, growth and decline. I'll still give anything (else) he does a chance.
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.
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."
I wanted something "different" and got it, that's for sure. Managed 10% of the way through before deciding to give it up. Unless you are a Harvard Educated English Major, keep a dictionary on hand because just about every page will have a word you've never seen before. However, that is minor compared to the repetition of "I'm not a racist" crap coming out of the main character. I have a feeling the author was high while writing this - then it would make sense! The book is filled with references to things I have no knowledge of - guess a history reference would be good to go with the dictionary. To be honest, I may go back to the book at a later time (hence the two stars) because it's possible I need to be high.
I wanted to love this. His films are some of my favorites. It’s not so much that the novel is dreamlike as it is undisciplined, self-indulgent writing that just becomes a slog after a couple hundred pages. I’m truly puzzled at all the glowing reviews. A lesser-known writer would haven’t even been able to find an agent for this, let alone get it published.