Cafe 227

Monday, August 28, 2006

Okay, It's Time for Everyone to Admit It... The Kite Runner Wasn't Really All That Good

I love it when I talk to people who like to read. I find it so much more fun to talk about novels and short stories than just about anything else, even sports. And I love to talk about sports. Usually these conversations yield excellent recommendations and books that I wholeheartedly enjoy. I'll read ANYTHING. I have enjoyed Tom Clancy and Tom Wolfe, Dean Koontz and David Mitchell, John Grisham and Jonathan Franzen... you get the point.

In any event, I read a lot of books that are wildly popular... mainly because I'm a literary "follower" and they're usually on sale. Ninety-nine percent of the time I finish a book and say, "Okay, I see why so many people liked that."

The Kite Runner, however, is not such a book. I cannot tell you how many times this novel was recommended to me (at least 30). These recommendations were not the run-of-the-mill, "I just read this and it's good," these were, "THIS BOOK CHANGED MY LIFE!" recommendations. So, about a year ago, I read it.

Now, maybe I'm callous or out-of-touch, but what is the BIG EFFING DEAL? I mean, it's a fairly well-written novel that provides a nice portrait of a country we know very little about, Afghanistan. But the best novel of the year? Life-changing? Come on.

What baffles me the most is how many EXTREMELY well-read women have said to me, "You know... Hosseini just really GETS IT. His depictions of fathers and sons and boys growing up are just RIGHT ON. I feel like I understand "

[SPOILER ALERT... If, for some reason, you're interested in reading the novel, stop here]

Hmmm... you know what, friends, you're right. Nothing says "boy coming of age" quite like a boy's servant-friend getting ass-raped by a racist while the boy competes with said servant-friend for a detached father's affection. Now, for those of you who loved the book, I'm not attempting to oversimplify the narrative. As I said, I do think the depiction of Afghanistan is nice and valuable, but the story is not this "life-changing event" that many make it out to be.

Friends (particularly female friends), I shall make a deal with you: I will not say to you, "Gosh, Kidd really GETS IT in The Secret Life of Bees... or Niffenegger really knows what it's like to be a wife," if, in return, you will stop telling me that my boyhood is best explained by a boy who wins a kite tournament.


  • You know, I feel the same exact way about The Catcher in the Rye.

    By Blogger Johnny Shades, at 12:25 PM  

  • Chico,

    I sympathize.

    Most of my reading for pleasure is connected to some sort of vacation, and many of my books are bought in an airport bookstore. Generally, my method for browsing is limited to books that have won some sort of literary award (minimum level of scrutiny that is often duped by that damned Oprah sticker).

    Before the last beach trip, I picked out a couple of would be winners. One of the books, Augusten Burrough's, "Running With Scissors," received excellent reviews as a well-written eccentric comedy. Hmmmm. If you get your jollies from descriptive scenes of what coming out the closet is really about, including details about anal rape that no person should be able to provide, that's the book for you. The page turning quality is the fascination that someone’s life sucks much worse than yours, much worse. Now they’re making it into a movie.

    I enjoyed Erik Larson’s “Devil in the White City,” especially with brother Big Red living in the Windy City. I always toss in “Blindness” by Jose Saramago, hoping to leave another with the same unsettled feeling it left me with a few years ago.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:19 PM  

  • I'm curious. If you read the book a year ago, what lead you to mention this today?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:38 PM  

  • I like how someone dumbs you down to "Chico" - for some reason that struck me as funny.

    And to what the other anon said, I don't know why you brought this up today but it's effing weird that you did. My latest-not-greatest man in my life recommended this book like 100 times to me this weekend.

    I believe in signs. And I will pay full attention. I will NOT be reading the Kite Runner, for whatever your reason for mentioning it today, when life is talking to me, I listen.

    By Blogger Velvet, at 4:53 PM  

  • Read Middlesex by Jeffrey Euginedes. It won the Pulitzer and it's one of the most original (to the least) books i've ever read.

    By Blogger Garfield, at 6:21 PM  

  • Ironically I just finished the book on Sunday. Although it was a quick read, I too was only mildly impressed. The only reason I read it is because my entire family begged me to, they loved it so much. Total downer!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:11 AM  

  • Spytech,

    I too greatly enjoyed "Devil in the White City" and agree with your sentiments.

    Anonymous 1,

    Good question. What spawned the posting was a critical mass of female friends and strangers going on and on about "The Kite Runner." I estimate this number was around 15.


    LOVED Middlesex and didn't want it to end (one of my main criterion for "good book"). Check out "Cloud Atlas" if you haven't already (the British one by Mitchell, not the American one).

    Anon 2,

    Very similar experience. Let's hope our families and friends provide better recommendations in the future.

    By Blogger Chico's Bail Bonds, at 8:54 AM  

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