**AUTHORS NOTE - Every section of this blog entry in italics are directly taken from the book in question. Enjoy them.**
I like books.
I like the feel of them, the smell of new ones, the cover designs, their colour (or lack of, perhaps), how they feel in my hands, and many other things. I like good books (obviously) and I also take a perverse pleasure in bad books. It's a lot of fun reading Dan Brown.
At least, that's how I felt until I settled down to read a book I had bought for £2. "What a bargain" I had thought at the time - a book by the great American novelist and celebrated scribe, Don DeLillo, for just £2! Sorted! Alas, dear reader, alas. Because the old pearl of wisdom is true - sometimes things are too good to be true.
The book in question is "Cosmopolis" and, having finished it earlier, I can now take great pride in announcing it as the most hateful thing I've ever had the displeasure to read. How bad is it? Very. Look, it's antagonising enough to make me dust off this blog and write about how much I hate it, for God's sake.
He said, "My prostate is asymmetrical."
"So is mine," Benno whispered.
They looked at each other. There was another pause.
"What does it mean?"
I'm so full of bile about this book that I need to be careful that this blog entry doesn't just become a rant. So, let's take a deep breath and try and walk through this one together.
"Cosmopolis" is about a man called Eric Packer. Eric is a billionaire, and a cunt. He really is - I can't sugar-coat that in any way. In fact, every character in the book is an obnoxious, horrible, aggravating shit.
So Eric is in New York and he wants a haircut, because damnit he's Eric motherfucking Packer! So Eric gets driven in his limo through the NYC traffic in order to get his haircut on the other side of town. Along the way he encounters protesters, a rapper's funeral, a visit from the President and the collapse of his business empire, caused by his own greed. Meanwhile, there's a former employee of his waiting to kill him.
There's not much story there, and the book isn't very long - 209 pages in fact, mercifully - so DeLillo fills his pages with the most extraordinary pseudo-philosophical bullshit AND the most awful dialogue you have ever seen.
I used to lick coins as a child. The fluting at the edge of a common coin. The milling it is called. I lick them still, sometimes, but worry about the dirt trapped in the milling.
On and on it goes, page after page of the most tiresome, awful nonsense, the likes of which you'll have never seen before or since. I've disliked books before. I've read bad books before. But Cosmopolis is the first one I've actually felt embarrassed to read on a train. "Oh God" I think, as I pull it out of my bag, "What if people think I actually like this book?"
He had mass but no flow. This was clear as he lay there dying. He had discipline and a sense of pace, okay, but no true fluency of movement.
But wait a second. Let's go back to one of my earlier gripes - that the characters are all shits. Packer's downfall comes through his own greed, and the book is heavy with the themes of capitalism gone bad - DeLillo wrote this garbage when the dotcom bubble was bursting. So maybe this is an acute commentary on the dangers of capitalism, and DeLillo should be applauded for his stand and his perception?
If it is, however, DeLillo blew it. There is no subtlety here. Packer et al are so egregious in their awfulness that there is no joy here - no pleasure in understanding that this is DeLillo attacking decadence. Instead, the whole thing is so "in your face", so ghastly, so sledgehammer-esque that even getting through the 209 pages is difficult. "HATE THESE PEOPLE!" DeLillo screams at us, and we do, but we hate him along the way more.
He liked paintings that his guests did not know how to look at.
At the end of the book, Packer is shot dead (I'm sorry for the spoiler but you shouldn't be buying/reading this book anyway). We feel neither happiness or sorrow when this happens. Not even relief. We're so fucked off with the whole debacle and so angry with ourselves for committing time/effort to the book that the ending matters not.
He said, "Stun me. I mean it. Draw the gun and shoot. I want you to do it, Kendra. Show me what it feels like. I'm looking for more. Show me something I don't know. Stun me to my DNA. Come on, do it. Click the switch. Aim and fire. I want all the volts the weapon holds. Do it. Shoot it. Now."
The film version of Cosmopolis was released last year. It "stars" Robert Pattinson and currently has a not-very-good-at-all IMDb rating of 5.1/10.
"Say the words."
"I want to bottle-fuck you slowly with my sunglasses on."
It's still better than the book.