It seems only fair that I begin this review by telling you why this review should not be trusted. First of all, and most importantly, I did not read all of this book. I didn’t even read most of this book. Overcome by hatred and disdain, I found the book increasingly interminable. The first few times I picked up the book I was still able to power through multiple pages at a time, but every subsequent reading has become shorter and shorter. It became clear to me that I was stuck in a mathematical graph that ensured I would be stuck reading this book forever – and so I quit. The prospect of having this book hanging over me was simply too harrowing. This bad book made me into a bad reader.
Second caveat to this review: my hatred is somewhat irrational. I fully admit that my hatred of the book does not entirely reflect the book’s (lack of) quality. Don’t get me wrong: I think this book is terrible. But it might just be that this book and its many particular quirks make up the literary Kryptonite to my Superman. This book rubbed me the wrong way in all sorts of ways I can imagine being highly personal to me, without reflecting in any way you or anybody else will feel about it. I cannot fully explain why I didn’t simply feel annoyed by the book, but why I actively hated it.
I’d tell you what the plot of the book is, but the plot doesn’t matter. I’d tell you about the characters, but they don’t matter. The only thing Lurid & Cute is about is the writing. The awful annoying writing style that feels far too in love with itself to be anything other than infuriating. It’s inaccessible for the sake of being inaccessible. It consists of verbiage so dense and yet devoid of true meaning that the book becomes intellectual only in the driest, academic sense of the word. Interesting only to the truly uninteresting. I’ve picked a random sentence so that you can get some real sense of what I’m talking about here:
“But while I did enjoy myself very much, exploring my conversations with Romy which were now heavy with the talk of apertures and openings, or if not direct talk then the intimation that such talk was on the brink of substitution, it was also true that there was this darkness I could not ignore, among the brightness, like the black circle left in your eyes if you’ve been suddenly just dazzled.”
I promise you that this sentence is representative of all the sentences in this book. Not all are quite as long, but all are equally dreary and lifeless. I realize that the sentence by itself is no great sin. It’s serviceable. But keep in mind that the book has no paragraph breaks except for dialogue. Multiple pages absolutely filled with square blocks of this text will test any reader’s patience, I would think.
I suppose the easy comparison would be to David Foster Wallace. Another writer known for complexity of style, but where Wallace complements and even infuses his sometimes obtuse style with an emotional richness that completely fits and makes sense – Thirlwell simply flounders on making anybody seem remotely human or even interesting. Wallace creates a world that may not be the most accessible, but completely draws you in. At times, sure, you can’t help but see an idea or a sentence so writerly that you picture Wallace at a desk really working hard. Lurid & Cute only seems to exist for every sentence to remind you that Thirlwell is really great. The only true image these sentences evoked from me is a perfect vision of Thirlwell’s smug grin. It just feels like he’s trying to hit you in the face with his brain, and really it begs the question: who cares?
Once I file this review I will be able to scroll to this book on my Kindle and click left. My Kindle will then present me the option of removing this title from my device and I will approve with vigor. That, I already know, will bring me such an unadulterated feeling of joy that committing myself to reviewing this book won’t have been a complete waste.
Written by Roy den Boer