“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

ANIMAL FARM II: This Time It’s Jewish!

I’ve never much liked Yann Martel (right), it has to be said. Not sure why. It’s certainly nothing to do with the allegations that he plagiarised whole chunks of THE LIFE OF PI. Possibly it’s the precious irrelevance of the floating zoo.
  It’s always nice to have your prejudices confirmed, isn’t it? Martel’s latest novel, the follow-up to the floating zoo story, is (koff) an allegory about the Holocaust for which he’s being paid three million dollars. Quoth the New York Times:
It relates the story of an encounter between a famous writer and a taxidermist who is writing a play that features dialogue between a donkey and a monkey, both imprinted on a shirt.
  “I’ve noticed over the years of reading books on the Holocaust and seeing movies that it’s always represented in the same way, which is historical or social realism,” Mr. Martel, 46, said in a telephone interview from his home in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. “I was thinking that it was interesting that you don’t have many imaginative takes on it like George Orwell’s ANIMAL FARM and its take on Stalinism.”
  Okay, but can I stop you right there squire? One: you’re no George Orwell. Two, the murder of six million-plus people in an industrialised death machine doesn’t need ‘imaginative takes’. Three, you don’t have a lot of ‘imaginative takes’ on Stalinism, do you? Four, what, if anything, is your ‘imaginative take’ on the Holocaust designed to achieve, exactly?
  Mind you, shallow bastard that I am, that’s not the most irritating aspect of the NYT’s report. Apparently Martel is being paid a cool three million dollars for the donkey-monkey classic. Is he happy?
  Mr. Martel also declined to discuss his advance, but said, “Frankly, with all the years it took to write this book, if you amortize it out, it’s not as much as one would like it to be.”
  Given that the floating zoo won the Booker seven years ago, we can presume the donkey-monkey opus took roughly eight years to write. Which works out at about roughly €370,000 per year, when you ‘amortize it out’.
  Now, I know the dollar has seen better days, but still – nearly four hundred grand a year to write some wankery allegorical bullshit, during a recession when people’s homes are being repossessed at an unprecedented rate, and the asshole still isn’t happy?
  If at some point in the far future you stop and look around and scratch your head and say, ‘Hey, whatever happened to literary fiction? Some of it was actually okay’, just remember the moron with the donkey-monkey dialogues who wasn’t happy with a three million dollar advance he wouldn’t be able to pay back in four lifetimes of trying.