Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Orphan Master's Son (Pulitzer Prize for Literature 2012)

The Orphan Master's SonThe Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I must be the only person on the planet who thought this Pulitzer Prize winning tome was a comedy! It read like Batman or Superman exploits
with lots of violence and lots of bizarre and nearly unbelievable events....but just close enough to what we've heard about the crazies who actually run North Korea to be true.

The characters have no ownership of self; everything and everyone belongs to the State, so it makes for this very difficult story about a main character for whom you can feel almost nothing, inasmuch as he is numbed by the life he leads, as are most of those around them. No attachments except in the dutiful adoration of The Dear Leader. Metaphorically speaking, they are all zombies and not alive at all, thus torture and cruelty is just part of the Main Tent attraction, because it can't hurt. These poor people can't feel! I did NOT get invested emotionally in any part of this book. It was similar to reading Moby Dick, in many ways. Just a keen fascination with the workings of the North Korean government slash dictorship slash cartoon-land.

The brilliance of the book is Johnson's ability to IMAGINE what goes on there, and the amazing research he must have done. His humor rises like steam off the stinking pool of terror and torture. One can't take it seriously--so if you're an adult, you can only laugh, shake your head, and admit that this is a novel that most talented writers could not have concocted, thus it's likely very deserving of a prize. Not for its impact on the reader, but for the difficult 'reality' Johnson managed to create that is utterly insane and probably true.

The most terrifying thing after I stopped laughing is the realization that this world we live in, IS just about this nuts.

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