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I was alerted to the release of this book by a comment on my Facebook Thomas Pynchon fan group. It was basically highly sceptical of some critic's claim that this book made Thomas Pynchon read like Dr.Seuss. That would make it a major literary event. It doesn't and it's not. Nonetheless it is a very funny book. As critics like to say it is fiercely intelligent and, deeply humane at its root. About what you'd expect of a novel penned by the script-writer of, amongst other things, Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
I was also attracted to the book by its title which promised to feed me fascination with the metaphor of insect societies for the general grotesqueries of human society. I was hoping for something like William T Vollmann's You Bright and Risen Angels, which to my mind was a major literary milestone that went unnoticed. Again it wasn't. Not a chitinous carapace in sight. But as a labyrinthine and zany plotline, involving films within dreams, within dreams, within movies, within hypnosis sessions, it certainly had echoes of Vollmann's missed masterpiece. Having said that, the whole thing is taken from the first person POV of a single central character making it not particularly challenging to follow. Unlike Pynchon where you're four pages along and you suddenly realise you've been in the head of a completely different character situated at a different place and time, and you go back to reread it, and after three attempts you're still not sure where the transition occurred.
Other reviews suggest that it's full of abstruse and obscure allusions. As a reader of Joyce and Pynchon i did not find this to be so, which i guess defines me as sadly over-educated. Most of the references are to movie directors. Reading it on the Kindle made it very easy to look up anyone's name that was unfamiliar. The pace is unrelenting and the comedy never flags or becomes repetitive, but that in itself can become exhausting with such a long book. I took time out half way through to read a biography of the rock group Soft Machine, and then returned to this without any great sense of disruption. Does it need to be quite so long? I've not quite reached the end yet so i don't know if there is a punchline or if it's just an endless recursion of shaggy dog stories. The guy has a lot to say, and he's funny so it doesn't matter.
At its essence the comedy is based on the increasing mental contortions that the privileged white male who just wants to be a decent human being has to go through to exist with some kind of dignity in the MeToo, BLM era. If there is a message then perhaps it is that sure, we all need to get 'woke'. The more the merrier. But if that's accomplished with just sanctimonious snarkinees, and without a bit of humorous self-deprecation, then we'll just end up making a world that's no better than the one we are trying to change.
Having just finished reading 'Ducks, Newburyport.' by Lucy Ellman, which is huge book with hardly any fullstops, I thought I'd read something a bit shorter, then this was released and that idea went up the chimney. I'm a big Charlie Kaufman fan (Especially 'Adaptation' and 'Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind' ) and , thankfully, this book didn't disappoint. It had full stops and everything.
I'm not going to recite the plot (mainly because I can't really, it's written by Charlie Kaufman.) lets just say if you like Kaufmans film and you like reading then you'll like this, probably.
If this doesn't win a load of awards (Pulitzer?) then I really don't know what will. Best book I've read this year and I've read a ton. I wanted to get as many in as I can before the whole world cracks down the middle like a dropped egg. But round and no yoke.
Loved it loved it loved it. Maybe a little bit too long, Charlie really isnt holding anything back here, so I'd probably say 4.5 out of 5, but I have never laughed so much and so consistently while reading a book. This is full on hilarious for a good deal of the story, which is nice because Kaufman's films, though still excellent, are getting progressively darker it seems.
Had me hooked from the first page. I’m 100 pages in and it’s constant hilarity and typical reality bending, mind dissecting stuff from the Genius of Charlie Kauffman. If you’re a fan of his films, then you won’t be disappointed!
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.
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!”