Thursday, June 12, 2008

Gilbert Adair

A Closed Book

My knowledge of Gilbert Adair before reading this was limited to his translation of George Perec's A Void, which I really liked. After reading this, I don't believe I will have the courage to read another. Many of his books sound interesting (the opposite of my John Updike theory), but this one fell flat. It is a Hitchcockian tale of an old blind writer who hires and amanuensis to help write his autobiography, but things aren't as they seem. The blind writer is based upon such curmudgeonly British eccentrics as Kingsley Amis and Evelyn Waugh, but without the wit or the charm. The book serves as a manual for nannying a blind man until the inevitable twist, much less shocking or even bearable than Adair must imagine it to be. The entire thing is impacted negatively by its own sense of self-importance, not to mention boredom. A Closed Book is a noir without the style, a mystery with no crime, and most of all a great bore to read.

Death of an Author

It was about 10 pages into this book when I realized I don't like Gilbert Adair's work. He is the anti-Borges, a man who takes what should last 2 pages and stretches it into 100. Every sentence has an awkward pause, an unneeded interruption. Just as in A Closed Book, Death of an Author is a noir-ish book peppered with all the usual clues, Nazis, secrecy, and gimmicky murder. He even takes his time expounding upon literary criticism, trying to draw it into the plot with all the subtlety of an elephant tip toeing through a field of delicate flowers. By the end, you deserve what you get for sticking around, which brings up the point: By explaining that the joke is on you, does that make it funny if the whole thing was a miserable experience? Not exactly true, as the second half of the book way outpaced the first half, but I will think twice before picking up another Adair novel.

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