OK, I’ve Finally Had It

I’m not saying I want to be understood, or claiming it’s worthwhile either.  It seems to me understanding me is one of the most boring things to do with me, or to me.  But! …  if someone wanted to understand me this parable is probably key:

THE PARABLE.  I am lying on the beach in South Beach, on a glittering cloudless day.   A coolish ocean unrolls gentle waves diagonally against the sand.  Scurrying attendants fetch towels, drinks, snacks, and beautiful, beautiful people walk by in the prime of their lives, acting like perfectly cooked steaks in the steakhouse of life.  Similarly greased, plated.  I appreciate them!, but dourly remind myself that they are “just” bodies.

I begin to read a book entitled Netherland.  I begin to dislike it.  But the more I hate it the more I continue to read it, the more determined I am to finish it.  I sigh and E laughs and I sigh and sigh, then I moan and say “get over yourself”–talking to the writer who is not there except in form of his book!–and E just looks at me and asks why am I still reading and I just continue to read and read, as if entranced.

Then we swim, E and I.  The water is perfect and one could spend the whole day there in the salt water only a few feet deep, swimming from one small goal to another.  I love the water—my being relaxes into more being—but even as I love where I am, I feel the riptide of the book.  Soon am back in chair, a smaller being, reading the hated book.  A woman in front of me is really “doing the beach”; she is drinking Coronas aplenty and talking to some handsome men she just met and describing that whoa she was so wasted she thought but then in Vegas maybe more wasted etc. etc.  I disdain her.  I think I am better than her, reading this book that I hate.  I look around at the lovely world, then I keep going back to the book.  I think about the lovely world while I am reading the book, why the world is vastly better than the book, but I keep reading the book.  END OF PARABLE.

Several days later, I was on the NY Times site and I was surprised to read that the author of Netherland

… seems incapable of composing a boring sentence or thinking an uninteresting thought…

But I present to you:

But mostly the diners were cricket men and their women—players and officers of the American Cricket League, the Bangladeshi Cricket League, the Brooklyn Cricket League, the Commonwealth Cricket League, the Eastern American Cricket Association, and the Nassau New York Cricket League; of the New York Cricket League, the STAR Cricket League, the New Jersey Cricket League, the Garden State Cricket League, and the Washington Cricket League; of the Connecticut Cricket League and the Massachusetts State Cricket League; of my very own New York Metropolitan and District Cricket Association; and, by particular invitation, Mr. Chuck Ramkissoon, whose guest I was.

Netherland, p. 136

… a sentence so stupefyingly boring that I fell asleep three times while typing it into my computer and had to wipe the drool thrice lovingly off my mousepad.  Not only is Joseph O’Neill capable of a boring sentence; he is one of the most gifted writers of boring sentences in the last decade.  Example 2:

Considered, too, was the depth and density of grass roots and the crucial disproportionality of a blade of millimeters-high wicket grass traveling six inches underground, and of course we talked of the constant battle to defeat moss and bluegrass and clover and the other weeds.19_oneill_lgl.jpg

I might enjoy this sentence more if it didn’t begin with “considered, too”?  But with apologies to all the intelligent and perceptive critics and civilians who have loved this book, I really am flabbergasted, flummoxed!  What has happened here?  I would like to settle on the convenient thesis that I am right and everyone else is an idiot, but I am also generously willing to consider the possibility that all these happy critics were the victim of some simultaneous hallucinogenic attack brought on by the collapse of Lehman Brothers.  Compared to GATSBY?  Really?

The main theme of Netherland seems to be the moroseness of its narrator.  The author, perhaps fearing understatement, really piles it on!   For example he’s walking down the staircase of the Chelsea Hotel:

I found myself freshly eyeing the pipes and wires and alarm boxes … These tokens of calamity and fire, taken in conjunction with the fiery and calamitous art, gave a hellishly subterraneous aspect to our downward journey … and I was almost startled when we reached the bottom of the stairs not to run into chuckling old Lucifer himself …

When I walked those Chelsea Hotel stairs, the pipes didn’t Satanically manifest.  Maybe I wasn’t writing a post-9/11 novel?  I understand all this fear of pipes plays wonderfully into the theme of post-9/11 impending disaster everywhere.  But maybe “fiery,” “calamitous,” “hellishly,” “subterraneous,” “downward,” “calamity,” “fire,” “bottom,” “Lucifer” could be a bit over the top?  And if you think this narrator gets spooked going down the stairs, well buckle your seatbelts:

The low ceiling was supported by an extraordinary clutter of columns; so many, in fact, that I could not avoid the perverse impression that the room was in danger of collapsing.  An enormous counter ran around three quarters of the office like a fortification, and behind it, visible between crenellations made by partitions and computer terminals, were the DMV employees.  Two of them, women in their thirties, screamed with laughter by a photocopying machine; but as soon as they reached their positions at the counter they wore faces of sullen hostility.  One could understand why, for assembled before them was a perpetually reinforced enemy, its troops massing relentlessly on the hard pewlike benches.  Many of those seated were hunched forward with hands clasped and heads bowed, raising their eyes only to follow the stupendous figures … that randomly appeared on screens with the purpose, never achieved, of moderating the agony of suspense in which visitors were placed.

Oh, come on.  “Agony of suspense”?  With penetrating novelistic insight, O’Neill reveals that it’s not really very fun to go to the DMV.    Does anyone else find the use of the word “crenellations” pretentious?  (Raise your hands.)  O’Neill’s technique seems to be:  1) find a metaphor, the more obvious the better; 2) find every possible modifier that goes along with that metaphor (fortifications, hostility, enemy, troops, reinforced, massing, egad!); 3) move on to another exaggerated metaphor.   Hey, the book writes itself!

As I was reading this passage, particularly, I began to feel I’ve read this before, but much much better, and very soon it hit me:  the passage at the beginning of Austerlitz, where the narrator visits the formerly SS-occupied fort of Breendonk, which sebald.jpghe has studied in diagrams, and now encounters in reality:

… I still had an image in my head of a star-shaped bastion with walls towering above a precise geometrical ground plan, but what I now saw before me was a low-built concrete mass, rounded at all its outer edges and giving the gruesome impression of something hunched and misshapen:  the broad back of a monster, I thought, risen from this Flemish soil like a whale from the deep … the longer I looked at it, the more often it forced me, as I felt, to lower my eyes, the less comprehensible it seemed to become.  Covered in places by open ulcers with the raw crushed stone erupting from them, encrusted by guano-like dropping and calcareous streaks, the fort was a monolithic, monstrous incarnation of ugliness and blind violence …

… it was only a few years later that I read Jean Amery’s description of the dreadful physical closeness between torturers and their victims, and of the tortures he himself suffered in Breendonk when he was hoisted aloft by his hands, tied behind his back, so that with a crack and a splintering sound which, as he says, he had not yet forgotten when he came to write his account, his arms dislocated from the sockets in his shoulder joints, and he was left dangling as they were wrenched up behind him and twisted together above his head …

I realize that misery is not a competition, but why does Sebald’s writing make me feel he’s “deserved” his melancholy more?  Poor multimillionaire Hans, aww, had a bad day at the DMV.  Jean Amery had a slightly worse day, and Sebald’s plain “sound which … he had not yet forgotten” is so much more powerful than O’Neill’s metaphoric noise.

Maybe it’s endemic to our modern world that we’re all looking for something to be miserable about, some way to replicate and endure the terrible cataclysms of the past–as if that would “prove” us, our existence, as opposed to all the pixels and megabytes we consume–though all around us even worse cataclysms hover.   The gratuitous cultivation of sorrow, which devalues real sorrow?  It seems to me a shame with all the real menace in the world these days, that Joseph O’Neill must resort to exploiting metaphors for more tragedy, so ham-handedly, so post-modernish, e.g. this parade scene:

… I turned around just in time to see Ronald McDonald veering away and crashing into the barriers.  There were screams.  A man in a doughnut costume was knocked over …

It’s true, this unending self-pity annoys me, but I’d forgive it if the book had aesthetic virtues:  for instance, some sort of shape, form, some barely discernible vector.  This is why the Gatsby analogy mystifies me.  I have never read a more aimless mess of a novel, ever.  Is Netherland about Hans and his wife, a barely-sketched relationship, or Hans and his child, used as an endearing prop, or his shady friend Chuck, or is it about the man who dresses as an angel in the Chelsea Hotel?   Luckily, our narrator lives there, where he can meet all sorts of quirky New York characters whom he can saddle with Symbolic Garbage, while he’s slouching from subject to subject.  At some point of course he saves the angel from jumping off the building, and buys him some clean wings at a sex shop.  High school essay writers, sharpen your symbolism-loving pencils!  And if you like symbolism:

  … life carries a taint of aftermath.  [editor’s note:  YICK].  This last-mentioned word, somebody once told me, refers literally to a second mowing of grass in the same season.  You might say … that New York City insists on memory’s repetitive mower—-on the sort of purposeful postmortem that has the effect, so one is told and forlornly hopes, of cutting the grassy past to manageable proportions.  For it keeps growing back, of course.

Ah, I see now!, I see clearly, mowing is a metaphor for memory and so all the ensuing tedious discussions of grass are symbolically necessary, whew!, thanks for explaining that to me.  (The author should NEVER explain his symbols, hello???)  Harrowingly, Gatsby drives to its doom through a series of ineluctable events; Netherland oozes and whines through a series of unavoidable cricket matches.  Some unnamed critic opines that Netherland’s prose “glows”?  Agh.  Well, to conclude this rant, I give you this incandescent morsel:

By the standards I brought to it, Walker Park was a very poor place for cricket.  The playing area was, and I am sure still is, half the size of a regulation cricket field.   The outfield is uneven and always overgrown, even when cut …  and whereas proper cricket, as some might call it, is played on a grass wicket, the pitch at Walker Park is made of clay, not turf …

…. zzzzzzzzzzzz.   I rest my case.  Maybe it glows when you turn your computer screen’s brightness all the way up?  I welcome your offended comments.

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  1. tbro
    Posted March 4, 2009 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    Jeremy, you must really love us, your blog readers, to let this overblown mass of faux ruin a perfectly good day at the beach. In future, we’ll be more than happy to have you write about things which delight, interest, amuse, or perplex you; you need no longer suffer like this on our behalf.

    Many years ago, I adopted the 100-page rule: If after 100 pages, a book does not demand that I continue reading it, I am done. I’ve since modified that into the 50-page rule, after noticing that the scale virtually never tipped between pages 50 and 100. Too many good books, not enough time. Thanks anyway for enduring this one for us. Glad you got it off your chest! Happy reading, Jeremy!

  2. DonB
    Posted March 4, 2009 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for letting me know that my returning this book to the library after reading 40 pages was not a mistake. I brought home the three Snopse novels which helped my recovery.

  3. cj
    Posted March 5, 2009 at 5:37 am | Permalink

    >. I had read much praise elsewhere for the book and thought its attributes were mysteriously lost only to me therefore I’m relieved to have some confirmation that I am not in fact lacking the DNA that would render the book readable. It’s I guess, well, just not too readable, even without the Corona woman quotient to contend with. Long flights are conducive to reading so lounging with my Amazon Kindle version (I know, I know, it’s a source of derision for some purists but it’s difficult to resist the lure and ease of a good library at one’s fingertips on transatlantic flights or when otherwise traveling), I look at the passenger seated opposite and what should she be reading but the same book (in actual book form). But her brow seemed consistently furrowed in frustration (though I suppose it could have been the airplane culinary delights being dispensed). I admire your tenacity in reading it. I guess I lack discipline as I also have not been consistent with my attempts at Rach’s Vocalise (Earl Wild transcription).

    Nevertheless, I’m thinking of keeping the book. And maybe chucking the Ambien in the bin.

    p.s. I was born and raised in Miami Beach. Hope you enjoy the time there.

  4. Jonathan
    Posted March 5, 2009 at 5:49 am | Permalink

    *blink, blink… yawn*

    Sorry, I fell asleep somewhere around ‘Eastern American Cricket Association’. I’m sure the rest of the literary dressing down was appropriately scathing though.

    Can we organize a book burning???

  5. Posted March 5, 2009 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    I wandered into Denk’s writing like a child exploring a new house. I suddenly found I had wandered instead into a railroad cattle car of prose as Denk crucified the literary skills of the Netherland’s novelist with all the delicacy of a cricket bat to the head. The door slid closed behind me, and I was trapped, destined to remain on this long, dangerously critical journey until I reached its mysterious, fatal end.

    The Denk-train’s doors were flung open, and I was blinded by flashes of insight that revealed a book too big for its boots, a book full of unnecessary metaphors the size of German words — Windschutzscheibewaschanlage-sized metaphors, Gepäckaufbewahrungsschein-sized metaphors — stretched to distortion like some inhuman Hitlerian torture. I knew not how I would trudge through the remainder of my day knowing that this disheartening, dolorous, dramatic disgrace was out in the world, ensaring the unfearing reading populace in a tar-pit of verbosity that smelled of mustard gas.

  6. Posted March 5, 2009 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    Really glad you’re posting again. And I won’t write here in public the book that so recently gave me such a similar frustration and disdain and utter BOREDOM. 😉

  7. Posted March 5, 2009 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

    Ewww, thanks for the heads-up, although I hate to think you didn’t get _some_ enjoyment from the reading since I enjoyed the shredding! Sounds like an extended metaphor for cricket which is an incomprehensible game that can go on for weeks played by stiff-upper-lipped men wielding sticks and balls with no protection except for insanely convoluted rules and sunblock.

  8. Posted March 6, 2009 at 5:00 am | Permalink

    Writers of such have far too much time on their hands.

  9. Posted March 6, 2009 at 5:12 am | Permalink

    Indeed Anni, those pesky writers of such!

  10. l'enfante terrible
    Posted March 6, 2009 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    You mean it’s all been meaningless?
    Every posture and excess
    Yes yes yes it was wearily meaningless
    Yes yes yes phosphorescently meaningless
    Yes yes yes how intrepidly meaningless
    Yes yes yes periphrastically meaningless…

  11. MAS
    Posted March 6, 2009 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    Disappointingly lazy and very nugatory review you’ve written. Calling it a “review,” though, misleadingly suggests that you were trying to offer a comprehensive understanding of “Netherland.” As far as I can tell, you were looking for something to trash, or cheap laughs, or the like. In any case, it’s just mean.

    The main issue you take here is a reviewer’s (importantly not Joseph O’Neill’s) claim that Mr. O’Neill can’t write a boring sentence. So you show that there are a few sentences in the book that are, shorn of context, boring. No great discovery here. Most people – except the psychotic or the willfully literal – can recognize Dwight Garner’s sentence as deliberately hyperbolic. What he means is that Joseph O’Neill writes interesting sentences. That’s more accurate, but less exciting phrasing, though – not the stuff that makes it on to jacket blurbs. By analogy, if someone said that one of Jeremy Denk’s performances was “flawless,” the person who then carefully parsed a recording of it and found three flubbed notes over the course of an hour would seem more petty than insightful. I suppose your efforts to dig up dull sentences in “Netherland” might expose Dwight Garner, or book critics generally, of using hyperbole; if so, congratulations on your campaign against critical exaggeration in the popular press. Now maybe you can devote your energies to something worthwhile.

    There’s nothing wrong with your not enjoying a book that others praise, and there’s nothing wrong with your stating that. But this was just depressingly vicious, and, as a performer, you should have some sense of how this redounds on you. Negative reviews have their place – and, again, I’m doing some violence to the term “review” in applying it to your blog entry – but the items under review may have been created with considerable effort, and reviewers shouldn’t handle them carelessly.

  12. Posted March 6, 2009 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    Ouch. My reply:

    … your remarks do give me a lot of pause, as well as a reminder that people read and react sometimes intensely to what I am blogging about, and that I should take care. I believe you are right on all counts, from a certain perspective. However:

    I don’t consider myself an official “book reviewer;” I don’t work for any newspaper or journal; and my blog is not officially about literary matters, for the most part, and so I don’t hold myself to the guidelines (perhaps rightly, perhaps wrongly) of a professional book reviewer. Nor do I ever review my colleagues’ work as musicians … reviewing is not “what I do”–I clearly don’t have the requisite objectivity!–and so I hope that many readers would interpret my remarks, in context, as the sort of humorous rant of a frustrated, passionate reader, rather than a bona fide review. (I mean, what kind of review is entitled “OK, I’ve Finally Had It”?) Just letting it loose. Isn’t the blogosphere supposed to be somewhat relaxed?

    You are absolutely right, that by the terms of a review, it is a lazy, improper piece of work. Ouch. Just as you say that “incapable of writing a boring sentence” is more exciting to read than “he writes interesting sentences,” so by the same token, my over-the-top, crazy denunciations are supposed to be FUN TO READ and not a studious appraisal. It is very possible, however, not to find this sort of thing fun, especially if you enjoyed the book, or if you just have moral objections.

    You are right: I could have quoted much longer passages, and gone into the book more deeply, and I hope with some effort I could have made my negative case in a more reasoned fashion. I think the result would have been the same, but just a much longer post: and all my friends are always telling me my posts are too long! There are, to my mind, many inexplicably tedious passages in this book, where the prose lacks flash, precision, that compelling thing that makes a book readable. There are many passages, also, when it bogs down in metaphors that seem fairly obvious, and pummels them in. Both of these points I made in brief, anyway; I could have supplanted each of these points with numerous other examples of what I meant, but I decided, for the purposes of a blog, to keep it shortish!

    So, I think you are NOT RIGHT that my main point was that Joseph O’Neill is indeed capable of writing a boring sentence. I had several other points: those listed above; a sense that the book is gratuitously self-pitying; and also my feeling that the structure of the novel was loose, disorganized, maybe even careless. It is hard to describe the overall form of a novel without a great deal of exposition and quotation … you were right, I was too lazy to do that. With an extended quote of the DMV scene, however, which I compared to the scene in Austerlitz, I hoped I drew a reasonably meaningful comparison of two over-the-top melancholic passages, and at least hint at why one seemed to me to “ring true” and the other not so much.

    I’ll confess that the long sentence listing the cricket associations was a cheap shot. OK, mea culpa. (I still wonder why that sentence was in the book? What editor thought it was necessary?) Let’s just keep ourselves in context … Every major newspaper has raved and raved about this book. Without insulting those critics, I nonetheless feel the Emperor has no Clothes. Is it so bad for me to speak up about that?

    Jeremy Denk

  13. Caleb Deupree
    Posted March 6, 2009 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for saying what needed to be said about this book, and so entertainingly as well. I still have to wonder, what were the professional reviewers thinking?

  14. #634
    Posted March 6, 2009 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    OK. I won’t buy that book. I found Handel’s score:)! Thank you!

  15. Posted March 7, 2009 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

    I do not think this is mean at all. It is the topos of literary nausea that many readers experience in the post-literary era when standards of writing are less clear. Or is the novel edging to the marginality of poetry, as Norman Mailer predicted, with a similar vertigo of evaluation and taste?

    I have heard people complain most about the prose of Thomas Pynchon and David Foster Wallace as unedited and undisciplined. They both had an imprint of personality and something to say, but there are stylistic lapses and an unwillingness to prune. Compare their works to Cheever and Updike with their more predictable quality and deftness.

    I suppose some analogy might be drawn with neo-tonal music of the late 20th century but I’m not sure.

  16. Posted March 8, 2009 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    Dear Jeremy,

    Agree about the hallucinogenic attack.
    Suspect dollar bill chemical interference with said critics.
    Also, recognize the “convenient thesis” as I also suffer from this, and not gladly at all.
    ha ha! :>D
    Jen :>)
    You wrote:
    I would like to settle on the convenient thesis that I am right and everyone else is an idiot, but I am also generously willing to consider the possibility that all these happy critics were the victim of some simultaneous hallucinogenic attack

  17. Linda
    Posted March 10, 2009 at 11:35 am | Permalink


    You’re a reader, you have a right to your opinion. Why did you torture yourself by reading the whole thing? If a book doesn’t grab me by the end of 1 or 2 chapters, it gets closed and returned/donated/recycled. There are way too many excellent authors/stories out there to waste my time on something undeserving of my attention.

    Now you need to treat yourself to something delicious!

  18. Posted March 11, 2009 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    Loved your post.
    I am trying to complete book that I don’t hate, but is nonetheless tedious.
    It is about my ancestor.
    Aaron Burr.
    BURR by Gore Vidal.
    I will get through it as I am duty bound to honor said ancestor.
    I suppose.

    I also loved your playing of the Emperor last night under the stars in Boca.
    With my eyes closed, for some reason, I thought about why Beethoven wrote the piece in the first place.
    I came up with nothing.
    No matter.
    It was lovely.

  19. Erica
    Posted March 11, 2009 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    As a former English major and an avid purveyor of literary journals and whatnot for many years, I have to say this “review” wasn’t all that vicious, nor was it terribly trivializing, especially considering this is a personal blog and not a formal book review space. Besides, underneath all the personal frustration, I think the post does point out a fundamental criticism of today’s arts & culture world, including the critics who orbit around it: that in America at least, we’ve grown to value (aesthetically) melodramatic and often gratuitous implications in literature at the risk of blinding ourselves to what has been and is more honestly tragic. This isn’t exactly something that’s entirely new or unique to the times, but I think it’s hard to help feeling disappointed seeing it celebrated to the extent that Netherland was celebrated by critics.

  20. roducl
    Posted March 11, 2009 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    God I needed to read this. Thanks, Jeremy. I started reading the thing but couldn’t make it past the first thrity pages. Nice to have a minority viewpoint substantiated.

  21. Posted March 14, 2009 at 4:37 am | Permalink

    The thing with Sebald that he tells it directly, without fuss or supposition and then distances himself (and us) from that statement, however enormous. Nothing becomes lachrymose unless the reader wants it to be. But he manages to do this – and this is the real magic of his writing – and still conjures a palpable sense of Weltschmerz. AUSTERLITZ is truly one of the greatest achievements in writing of the past 20 years. Thanks for this post… I have avoided NETHERLAND to date; I will continue on that path.

  22. Bellerophon
    Posted March 16, 2009 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    I have recently begun to consider the increasing re-relevance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance” in modern culture and politics.

    I highly recommend it. It is not at all boring.

    Well, perhaps with the exception of “Hail Poetry”. At least that’s sardonic, though.

    Some years ago, I read a lovely book about a violinist who, when he found himself in a hole, kept digging. It was beautifully written, but I found myself wishing that the poor violinist would just go ahead and kill himself to get the thing over with.

    I have been careful not to repeat that experience. Good luck!

  23. Nimble
    Posted March 16, 2009 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    I think MAS missed the beginning of your post and the very personal nature of your reaction to this novel.

    I share your determination to finish some books even after already deciding that they are not pleasing. Maybe I find this process more entertaining than you do. I enjoy exclaiming over repeated examples of ham handed writing and unbelievable twists or developments. I drive my husband crazy telling him about this awful book I’m reading. “Just quit, find a better book,” he tells me. But if I’ve gotten far enough in, I get to a point where I want to discover just how bad a book can be. I also get a narcissistic enjoyment of pinning down just exactly what it is about a particular book that bugs me. It’s satisfying to be able to articulate that clearly. I assume you are feeling that sense of satisfaction, along with the (hopefully fading) irritation.

  24. Todd
    Posted March 19, 2009 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    You may want to read A Disorder Peculiar to the Country by Ken Kalfus. Though it predates Netherland by a couple of years, it does a good job at satirizing novelists’ tendencies to milk out post-9/11 shock for more than it’s worth.

  25. don bradman
    Posted March 24, 2009 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    I could not agree more with your commentary on this wretched, wretched book. In Blackwells Oxford today I saw that they were selling a wooden reading stand for £29.00. What better furnishing could there be for it than the wooden writing in Netherland?

  26. Jane
    Posted April 15, 2009 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    Haven’t read Netherland (and probably won’t), but not many novelists can compete with W.G. Sebald. “The Emigrants” is perhaps even more wonderful than “Austerlitz”.

  27. Katrin Stamatis
    Posted May 3, 2009 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    NY Times
    Published: April 28, 2009
    On April 14, President Obama gave a speech at Georgetown University, trying to explain why he was taking on so many economic issues so early in his administration. … This was our third interview about the economy, the first two occurring during last year’s campaign. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of that interview…

    At the end of our conversation, when I asked him if he was reading anything good, he said he had become sick enough of briefing books to begin reading a novel in the evenings — “Netherland,” by Joseph O’Neill.
    At the end of our conversation, when I asked him if he was reading anything good, he said he had become sick enough of briefing books to begin reading a novel in the evenings — “Netherland,” by Joseph O’Neill.

  28. Katrin Stamatis
    Posted May 3, 2009 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    Sorry – I pasted it twice accidentally!

  29. Posted September 1, 2009 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    Why, oh why, did I not see this post before I tried to read Netherland?

  30. Michael
    Posted September 1, 2009 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    I am going to swim against the tide here and say that I found Netherland to be completely compelling on many levels — as a story of a marriage unraveling bit by bit, as an immigrants’ tale of otherness at a time (post 9/11) when such a standing was suddenly fraught with new judgment, even as a mystery of dangerous doings beneath placid surfaces. I was aided by having been introduced to — and frankly falling in love with — cricket while posted to South Africa. So I understood the call it had on these expats from parts of the English empire, and even the importance of the length of the grass on the pitch. I also spent many of my journalistic years as a critic and I know how much fun it is — and how easy — to pan something. (“What’s with this Hamlet guy anyway? Why doesn’t he just make up his mind? Three hours of this? Please!) It is especially easy for American writers to pan anything to do with cricket. (They break for tea! Games go on for days, then end in a tie!) This was a fine example of the well-done pan, beginning with a very cheap shot (the list of cricket organizations as an example of a boring sentence — think of what you could do with Proust?) and contining to pile on an assortment of jabs, hooks and haymakers. It was admirably crafted. But I would ask your readers to try Netherland and make up their own minds. Maybe not at the beach. It’s not a beach book.

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