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Review: I Hate the Internet, by Jarett Kobek

in Ark Review/Book reviews by
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Jarrett Kobek and laughing/crying smiley

At the bottom of the corn yellow cover, in overstated yet small italics, is written the claim: “a novel”. However, it’s really more like an oversized pamphlet in witness protection, disguising as a novel, cap and sunglasses on, as it never lets the reader forget that it is, in fact, a novel—but a bad one. A novel in double disguise.

It will have nothing to do with “the good novel”, a CIA-funded initiative in same vein as the Paris review and the rigged Nobel Literature Prize in 1958.

But this is not the book of a nutter in California with a tin foil hat who sees triangles everywhere:

The plot is minimal, the frame story is Adeline, a comic book artist in San Francisco with an affected transatlantic drawl and lots of money. She commits the ‘’only unforgivable sin of the early Twenty-First Century’’ by being kind of famous and expressing unpopular opinions on the internet and it is here that the books picks up on the events. It’s 2013, which explains why you will encounter the name of Donald Trump all of 0 times in this 280 pages epos of rage.

The book is a long rant about lots of the stuff most people like and enjoy. Like the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s:

“Breakfast at Tiffany’s was about a male sex-worker who bullies a female sex-worker out of work so that the female sex-worker can submit to the male sex-worker’s misogynistic love.”

Self-portrait by Fmr. President George W. Bush
Self-portrait by Fmr. President George W. Bush

And the artworks of George Bush:

“Saw more images of George W. Bush’s paintings. Like peering into the shattered mind of a suicidal beagle that’s lost depth perspective.’’

And on many occasions, the book deconstructs itself: “This bad novel, which is a morality lesson about the Internet, was written on a computer. You are suffering the moral outrage of a hypocritical writer who has profited from the spoils of slavery.”

Most of this hilarious book feels like an introduction manual to earth (or just San Francisco) with it’s target audience being an alien or someone living 200 years from now with no concept of racism, misogyny, internet culture etc. and the ‘’welcome to earth’’ they are receiving via this book is a rather pessimistic one.

There are so many fantastic parts of this book that it is difficult to pick a favourite, but chapter 25 has a special place in my heart, it starts like this: ‘’There used to be a chapter in this space. It wasn’t very good. The intention was a fine one. But in the end, the chapter was terrible. So it’s gone.’’ Then the narrator proceeds to tell the reader about what chapter 25 was supposed to do and how this chapter would tie everything together, being the ideological heart of the book, which it ends up being by not being. The absence and presence of chapter 25, or just the sheer impotence of it shows how critiquing the internet becomes a hydra which will exhaust even the most dedicated writer.

But nothing is sacred and Walt Disney is in for some serious bashing.

9781584351061Kobek will publish a new novel later in 2017 that will be a prequel to this novel and I’m looking forwards to that, but it’s hard to imagine where one goes in terms of prose after this book. That said, Kobek is versatile: in 2011 He released ‘ATTA’ at Semiotext(e) which is a completely different book in an unrecognisable style and language, from I Hate the Internet, about a man who is one of the hijackers of the 9/11 planes. The prose of ATTA is sparse and formal and the format is tight with the chapters counting backwards and shifting position from Atta to the third person until crashing the Twin Towers. Compared to ‘ATTA’, I Hate the Internet is an abundance of words flowing over with heaps of entertaining, educatin’ digressions. Not only “recommendable” but mandatory.

Published by Serpent’s Tail 

Giovanna, wildly gifted pedestrian, yet is able to remain humble. Would love to engineer a lovechild/super-breed author between Ben Lerner and Chris Kraus, but will also settle for a coffee table book with pictures of them and/or a documentary where they walk the Camino together.

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