Posts Tagged ‘apathy’

Book #114: The Victim

Saul Bellow’s The Victim was an interesting read.

Bellow is a good writer and I know I’ll look forward to reading some of this other stuff that’s on this list, but The Victim didn’t leave much of an impression on me. Here’s the Goodreads summary of the book:

“Leventhal is a natural victim; a man uncertain of himself, never free from the nagging suspicion that the other guy may be right. So when he meets a down-at-heel stranger in the park one day and finds himself being accused of ruining the man’s life, he half believes it.”

And I don’t really have much to add except …yep. That’s pretty much what happens. Maybe I missed the point of the book or something, but it really was pretty much Leventhal bopping around New York feeling vaguely indignant about stuff that’s happening around (and to) him. He mostly just accepts it and, at times, he starts to feel a little bit upset and makes moves to stand up for himself, but overall he’s generally all too willing to accept the blame others heap on him for things that aren’t his fault.

It feels like The Victim could easily turn into a parody, but at the same time, it just reads like an exploration in apathy.

I really wish I had more to say about this book, but I really don’t. Leventhal would probably be a little upset that I didn’t think the story of his life was more interesting. But then again, he’d realize that he only has himself to blame. He should have done more exciting things!

Rating: ***
Up Next: The Hound of the Baskervilles

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Trainspotting and Misanthropy

Reading Trainspotting was a strange experience.

It was strange because I kept thinking in a Scottish accent if I read it for too long. It was strange because it started to make sense after awhile. It was also strange because I couldn’t figure out what the hell was going on.

Basically, all these Scottish addicts were existing. They had psychological problems, got arrested, went to rehab, got clean, got addicted again…all sorts of stuff.

Basically, no one in Trainspotting really cares about anything. All the characters – Renton, Sick Boy, Begby, Spud, Second Prize, etc. – feel apathetic toward the world. For various reasons (though most of them involve heroin), they don’t feel like there’s any point to living or interacting with the world.

Renton is pretty much the definition of misanthropy and apathy. People suck, the world sucks, then you die. The end.

Although it is likely his heroin addiction that starts him feeling this way (he often mentions how nothing matters except heroin), Renton winds up really believing this. When his therapist tries to induce him to interact with the world again by telling him to “choose life,” he all but explodes:

“Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. . . Choose good health, low cholesterol, and dental insurance. Choose fixed interest mortgage payments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. . . Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fucking junk food into your moth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pissing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked up brats you spawned to replace yourselves. Choose your future. Choose life…but why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life.”

This is quite possibly one of the most depressing descriptions of life that I’ve ever read. I can feel how much Renton despises life and society and the people in it. I suppose, if anything, Irvine Welsh has the misanthropic mindset down. To be honest, it’s kind of disturbing.

And the worst part is that there isn’t much reconciliation or closure. Renton and his friends continue to despise and reject the world they are forced to live in. They don’t make many concerted efforts to find meaning in their existences, but they don’t (often) blame outside forces for their situations.

It’s kind of a depressing novel. I liked it, but it’s hard to find things to say about it.
Also, I never did understand why it had to be written in Scottish dialect. I suppose, if I had to say something about it, I’d say that it made me feel even more “inside” the characters’ heads than I would have if it was written normally. But still…

Rating: ****
Up Next: The Sea, The Sea

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