Wednesday, August 21

bibliophile [the dinner]

Picked up this international bestseller last month, and didn't regret it.

The Dinner, by Herman Koch

I recently read a quote, reputed to be from Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project fame, that the more you say about a book, the less likely someone else will be to read it. The less attractive you make it. I hadn't thought of this before, and I don't have her context, but I can see how it might be true. For example, if you said Twilight was a romantic story, I'd think, huh, sounds lovely. If you continue on to tell me it's about vampires and angst-y teens and perversions of love, I'm less likely to grab my kindle. In a less dramatic fashion, what the reviewer pulls from a book may be just a small part of the entire experience, but it could be enough to deter you from what you might have enjoyed without their filter.

In that vein, let me give you a blurb and some brief remarks:

A good unreliable narrator is one of the most satisfying characters a novelist can dream up--and Herman Koch takes us on a hell of a ride through the mind of Paul Lohman, the deliciously sinister host of The Dinner. Paul's 15-year-old son, Michel, has committed an unspeakable crime; his brother, on the cusp of becoming the Netherlands' next prime minister, has a delicate wife and two teenagers who share Michel’s secret; Paul's wife, Claire, will do anything to protect their boy. As the two couples inch through an excruciating meal at a chic restaurant--their children's whereabouts uncertain--Paul peels back the layers of their situation, weaving to and fro through time and truth. Koch's finely structured story gives away just enough on each page to keep us riveted, feeling like private investigators on the verge of discovery, until the shock of an ending. It's no small feat for the author that the less we trust Paul, the more we want to hear what he has to say. --Mia Lipman

I typically hate unreliable narrators (which is why I loved the trustworthiness of this protagonist, and no I'm not joking), but this guy I dig. And in some ways, you can trust parents: they'll do anything to protect their kid. So no matter what they're saying, you know the ultimate motive. Paul reminded me of the heroine of this novel, one of the best I read last year: crisp, unapologetic writing, colloquial but eloquent, and a healthy dose of his own crazy. I agree with one reviewer in that this is pretty much a 300 page monologue, but if it's an interesting one, who cares? Don't expect much character development- the book spans just one dinner, and each course is a chapter- but the plot and people are weird enough that you won't miss them growing and changing.

Perhaps I just like the macabre when it's sprinkled over good writing, but I'd give this one a read.

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how you like dem apples?