The Last Samurai
Helen DeWitt, 2000

the thirty‐seventh book in the visitor recommendation series;
suggested by Kevin Hunt and Alex Smaliy

Sorry, no.  At first I thought this might be a good one, as it opens with a storylet that is a bit precious but which I still kind of liked overall.  But then I got to the novel proper, and it’s written like this:

and he would read out a sentence that was the work of a stupid virtuoso
and he never did seem to see what I meant.  Lord Leighton was like this and like that and the other & he was like a man who piles mattresses on a pebble & I was like the princess & the pea, I was not going to say something about English & the American novel to be told I was engaging so I drank my drink and when Liberace had finished reading he talked for a while about Lord Leighton.

I ain’t reading that.  The style is impenetrable enough, but it turns out that by “Lord Leighton” and “Liberace” the narrator means “a writer whose prose style reminds me in an unspecified way of a painting by Frederic Leighton” and “a writer whose prose style reminds me in an unspecified way of a performance by Liberace”, and that’s just one of the narrator’s many, many insufferable quirks that had me heading for the exit within a hundred pages.  Pattern 27: too goddamn cutesy.  I guess this book was recommended to me because I have written some stuff about child prodigies?  But one of the reasons I don’t have children is that given what I was like as a child, and given the genes I would be bringing to the table, I think the chances are pretty good that I would find myself with a four‑year‑old boy following me around monomaniacally reciting “heptakaienenekontasyllabic, oktokaienenekontasyllabic, ENNEAKAIENENEKONTASYLLABIC, HEKATONTASYLLABIC” the way the four‑year‑old boy in this book does, and I could not cope with that.  This one also shrieks “NOOOOOOOOOOO!!” when told to please stop, and I really couldn’t cope with that.  Thus I could not cope with this book either.

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