Thursday, March 10, 2011

David Brooks' Novel Apparently Really, Really Sucks

Via friend of the blog Ned Resnikoff, P.Z. Myers' devastating review of what sounds like it might really be the worst novel ever written:
I made it almost a third of the way through the arid wasteland of David Brooks' didactic novel, "The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement," before I succumbed. I had begun reading it determined to be dispassionate and analytic and fair, but I couldn't bear it for long: I learned to loathe Harold and Erica, the two upscale avatars of upper-middle-class values that Brooks marches through life in the story. And then I began to resent the omniscient narrator who narrates this exercise in unthinking consumption and privilege that is, supposedly, the ideal of happiness; it's like watching a creepy middle-aged man fuss over his Barbie and Ken dolls, posing them in their expensive accessories and cars and houses and occasionally wiggling them in simulated carnal relations (have no worries, though: Like Barbie and Ken, no genitals appear anywhere in the book), while periodically pausing to tell his audience how cool it all is, and what is going on inside his dolls' soft plastic heads.

So what is this book about? It's a bizarre chimera, an unholy grafting together of a novel, the story of Harold's and Erica's lives, and an ideological, psychological, neurological and pseudo-scientific collection of materialist explanations for their happy situation. Every chapter whipsaws the reader between a fictional narrative about some exemplary event in their history -- birth, education, being attractive and popular, careers, relationships, corporate revenues, morality, European vacations and other such universal concerns -- and a pedagogical and often facile digression into the supposed neural substrates that drive and reward decisions that will make these two happy and fulfilled. Neither part stands alone, and together ... I'm sure there were delusions of a soaring synergy that would drive deep insights, but instead it's a battle between two clashing fairy tales to see which one would bore us or infuriate us first.  

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