Antosh On Antosh – A Reading Review Of Ayoade On Ayoade: A Cinematic Journey by Richard Ayoade

Morning. Antosh and Antosh sit around a novelty tea party table. The cups are empty. There are no other guests.

Antosh:                                So, you’ve decided to review the book in the form of the book?

Antosh:                                Yes.

Antosh:                                And why’s that?

Antosh:                                It’s a visual representation of what the reader is in for when they sit down with this book expecting something straight forward, which I would argue was a mistake given it’s written by Richard Ayoade.

Antosh:                                OK… One of your comments whilst reading it was that you read more of the latter end of the book before the first half.

Antosh:                                How did you know I said/thought that?

Antosh:                                I was there…

Antosh:                                Ah yes. Well, it’s true. Ayoade essentially embarks on ten interviews with himself, all the while throwing you into the appendix section of the book to read reams and reams before you’ve advance past page 20. It’s a great technique. It means you can’t speed read and you’re totally focused on Ayoade’s voice, jokes and analogies.

Antosh:                                And did you learn much about cinema?

Antosh:                                Nope. Diddly-squat.

Antosh:                                So what was good about the book?

Antosh:                                It was funny. If you like Richard Ayoade, you’ll find this funny.

Antosh:                                But not one for cinema buffs trying to learn about ‘the process?’

Antosh does a dramatic claw-grab-the-air motion when he says ‘the process.’

Antosh:                I wouldn’t say so. Ayoade does his usual undercut-type humour where he leads you down the path of maybe talking about something that you will learn from and then makes another joke. But I think it works. It’s like a show-don’t-tell guide to him as a person. You’re never going to see him outside of his persona. Maybe he has no persona? He’s embedded in himself. I just love the fact that the book might have lured people into thinking it’s biographical and/or going to discuss his process, when really, you’re sinking into another facet of his comedic work. And he wants the reader to be angry, cheated, disappointed. He wants this book to be overanalysed. All of this is SO intentional. Which is why it’s worth a read.

Antosh:                                So, it’s an anti-book?

Antosh:                                That’s as good a conclusion as any.

Antosh shakes Antosh’s hand. They then break their tiny chairs over each other’s heads, laugh and exit the review.

Ayoade On Ayoade: A Cinematic Journey, by Richard Ayoade, Faber and Faber, 2014

Advertisements

Reading Review: The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen

This is a fiction book about fictional books and the fictional people who write them. The Rabbit Back Literature Society is a prestigious collective of nine writers in Finland, led by Laura White, who is regarded as their literary mentor and saviour. She’s a writing God, essentially. The Society is joined by the unexpected protagonist, Ella after she writes a short story. The writers flock to her and on we go with a story of mystery, writing and sexual tensions and suspected murder and… It’s a weird book. Super metaphysical shit goes down. It has an off-kilter prose style, which is either intentional or symptomatic of translation. Clean cut prose with some major turns in lines that made it hard to stay on my chair.

The Rabbit Back writers follow The Game; a technique they use to extract raw literature from each other. You can’t lie, each writer playing The Game has to spill. These sections, for the most part, switch into a present tense perspective, when the rest of the book is in past, and it comes across as urgency but is a little jarring, making me check what tense I was in beforehand. Maybe I should pay better attention. The spills are the most driving parts of the book. We see the most horrendous parts of writers come to life on their own lips, as they stand there, bleeding out, to someone else who can use it as material for their own work. It’s psychotic and truthful. Makes me think of my poetry lecturer telling me, ‘when you’re being beaten up in the street, you can find solace in the fact you’ll have something to write about after leaving the hospital.’ Why do we do this to ourselves?

In other places, it reads like a record skip. Stuff gets mentioned over and over, like the protagonist Ella, with perfect lips and defective ovaries. Nothing comes of these details. Jääskeläinen even mentions her job title over and over within short spaces of time. Turn the page, he’s reminding me she’s a lit grad. Again. This is all there really is to her. She’s a vehicle for the incredibly well-fleshed characters around her but I felt no arc in Ella throughout, so even though the journey is only possible because of her and what she learns is threatening weird and fun, she doesn’t progress as a character. She is still a researcher/lit teacher with perfect lips and an inability to have children. WHY MENTION IT?!?!!?! I mean, there is loose symbolism that I could tie it to in relation to the creation of work in the novel but it’s way loose…

Jääskeläinen has crafted a literary-mystery farce, loaded with heavy moments that are worth the read. But this is a book I was constantly asking myself ‘what is driving me to read this?’ The characters are worth it but if you want plot, stay away. It’s nice that Jääskeläinen gives you an opportunity to just be with characters, something that is undervalued BUT the plot still needs a sense of progression. Maybe if Ella changed more it would have been better.

Read When: You want character, visceral dream sequences, mystery, oddity, symbolism, some killer lines.
Don’t Read When: You want driving plot, conclusive endings, you’re avoiding ‘writer on writer’ type stories…

The Rabbit Back Literature Society, Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen, tr. from Finnish by Lola M. Rogers Pushkin Press, 2013