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Epic 'flawed masterpiece'
am 23. Juli 2000
I won't attempt any kind of meaningful literary criticism, you can find that in other reviews (beware, it is obvious many of the published reviewers have not read the whole book) and comments, and I'm not up to it. But I will try to explain what the book is. This is the story of America's past 50 years, told from a unique perspective (kind of like a hyperactive eye of God with a 5 minute attention span). This results in a series of interconnected short stories travelling back and forth in time, connected by ephemera (a baseball, garbage, TV shows, and the degrees of separation of all the characters). The story is discovered by tracing these connections, which are made by the actions of the characters (the story is not really about the characters, but about explaining the effects of different forces on their lives).
The book switches between styles frequently. The most disturbing thing many people may find are the switches between first and third person. However, people accept these changes in viewpoint in films... Next is the repetition. However this serves to illuminate the connections between the characters' experiences, and also help the jog the reader's memory to something that happened 300 pages ago. Don't be put off by the change in style after the relatively accessible and electric first chapter, either.
Making it to the end of this book is difficult, because there is barely a sentence that does not serve to illuminate the story in a way that makes you stop and think. But if you do, it should make you think differently about life, what more can you ask for?
Perhaps the most impressive feature of this book is that the author managed to keep it coherent despite its massive size and scope, finally resolving all of the interconnected sequences of events spawned in the first chapter. It is a demonstration of rare talent.