I’m not the kind of reader who must identify with–or even like–the main character of a book to appreciate it. I’ve read Lolita, and despite the horror of Humbert Humbert’s pedophilia, I admire the novel as brilliant writing. So the fact that I disliked so intensely the main character in this book is not a reason to hate the book. It is, sadly, just one among many reasons why I found the novel dismal.
The truth is, I hated EVERY character in this book. Jacob, his wife Julia, his horrible parents, his horrific children. Every single one of them. It is the most obnoxious collection of self-absorbed, pseudo-intellectual, self-aggrandizing, neurotic assholes you can imagine. And it never gets better.
To make it worse, none of the characters even speaks realistically. The dialogue is pretentious, always too articulate, and there no’s real differentiation among the characters. Jacob’s 10- and 12-year-old sons sound like dreadful professors. No children every expressed themselves that way. All of the characters speak like bad fortune cookies. And they’re all obsessed with such trivial details about life–as if each detail were a profound mystery. (Jacob can do a page and a half on the mental associations of a random fork.)
If you admire Woody Allen, you might like this book. I can’t stand his self-involved neuroses. And all of these characters are Woody Allen.
This is the second novel I’ve tried by Foer. I DNF’ed the first one, so I shouldn’t be surprised that I wanted to DNF this one, too. As one of my friends said, the writing is “precious AF.”