Monday, December 05, 2011

I don't get it: The Sisters Brothers

The Sisters Brothers was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and The Giller Prize.  It was recommended by Amazon, Indigo, the chick in the bookstore, and some guy on the radio.  There was a write-up about it where someone went on about the book's design and how awesome it was.  So when I found it in soft-cover (I don't buy hard cover), I bought it right away despite really wanting to finish up Dombey and Son.

I was expecting a lot.  What I got, though, was the cowboy, post-modern lit version of Seinfeld: It's a book about nothing.

Now don't get me wrong: I loves me a book about nothing!  I've read four Barbara Pym novels and absolutely nothing happens in those novels.  I mean, what happened in Jane and Prudence?  Nothing!  OK, Miss Whatserface ends up with the widower instead of Prudence and Prudence starts dating that guy in her office.  Yeah, tonnes of action there!  And just the other day I was telling my workmates -- a bunch of engineers who all list "Lord of The Rings" as the last book they read -- that a book doesn't "need a twist" to be good.  But I spent the whole of The Sisters Brothers waiting for something -- anything! -- to happen.

All right, all right...In all fairness things do happen:  Eli's tooth gets infected and they meet some random women and they run into some guy who's crying on his horse and they meet a kid on a dying horse and whatnot, but it's like some kind of cheap version of Krzysztof Kieślowski's Trois Couleurs series where the random actions in the background all have some kind of metaphysical meaning.  And by "cheap version" I mean that none of these background actions appear to have any metaphysical meaning.  It literally feels like an unfunny, Old West, post-modern lit Seinfeld.

There is a dramatic dénouement at the end where our two protagonists change, but it's not like a real epiphany.  It's not Lucy Honeychurch coming to grips with her non-conformity and marrying George.  It's not Renton realizing that his friends are assholes and running off with their money.  It's not even Rob and Laura's anticlimactic realization that it's just easier to stay together than to start over, apart.  No.  It's nothing.

It is a book devoid of point.

And it made me wonder what everyone saw that I didn't see.

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