I was browsing bookshops (trying to send a little love back to my favourite shops in Dublin, who’ve suffered right along with every other realtor under the 2020 Lockdown), and on one of the show tables I caught the name Charlie Kaufman.
I kept browsing, because whenever you buy something off a show table without having a proper look around the shop first – no matter how many times you’ve been in a particular bookshop – you always feel slightly disappointed with your purchase(s).
‘Charlie Kaufman,’ kept echoing around my head as I browsed the shelves. ‘Where have I heard that name before? – There’s that screenwriter, who’s really good, but he doesn’t write books…’
Turns out he does write books.
Antkind is pretty much what you’d expect from Charlie Kaufman as a writer, if you’ve any experience of his movies: – Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Adaptation and Anomalisa.
The story is very cerebral, it gets inside your head and twists it inside out, while taking you on a journey that’s as much about yourself, as it is about the character(s) in the plot.
At times Antkind is laugh out loud funny, with the principle character, B. Rosenberger Rosenberg, being a fabulous caricature of what it is to be a member of the intellectual elitist left; a point that really gets hammered into you, far beyond being funny, to being a rather tragic portrait.
As you’d expect from an Oscar winning writer, CK knows who to craft a story, and in trademark fashion it’s certifiably weird, keeps you guessing, and catches the light in a very individual way.
Ankind’s weakness, as a novel, is that the story feels like a series of skits nailed together, rather than a full length single piece. It’s quite a long novel too, at 700+ pages; although, to CK’s credit, it doesn’t feel in anyway like an effort read, with the writing fun and accessible
The other particular weakness I found was that his writing style dictates the formation of the people and places a little too strictly. I’ve noticed that before in screenwriters who swap from the more visual form, over to that of a pure novel (and I’m sure that a version of that problem arises when writers go the other way too – as I’m equally sure that there are those who have no problem switching between the two – Michael Crichton being a pretty good example).
Self-insertion is a literary device in which a fictional character, who represents the real author of a work of fiction, appears as an idealized character within that fiction, either overtly or in disguise
It’s pet peeve of mine, but I really don’t enjoy Self-Insertion. Fans of Charlie Kaufman won’t be entirely surprised to hear that he pops up from time to time in Antkind, and it just kills of the momentum behind the story you’re reading. Even when Stephen King does it, a man who knows more about writing than most – even someone of Charlie Kaufman’s calibre – self-insertion gets on my nerves.
Still, overall, Antkind is a book that I really enjoyed. At a time when I (perhaps most people) could do with a good laugh, and a bit of thinking outside the box, this book was exactly what the doctor ordered.
If you like Flann O’Brien, Kafka and Murakami, then I suspect you’ll like Charlie Kaufman’s debut novel; and, if those names are a mystery to you, it may still be worth taking a risk on Antkind, because it will take you to places that you didn’t necessary realise you wanted to go.
[I know far from everything about books, so if you have any thoughts you’d like to share with me, I’m on twitter @LCross137 or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or I live in Dublin, usually wear a hat, and carry around brown satchel with books in, you’re welcome to come over and say hello.]