Adam Thrilwell’s novel Politics is as energetic as it is neurotic as English as it is universal. The universal themes primarily surround the sex scenes which are generational in an occasional hackneyed fashion, but rescued by a biting insight and honesty (There is a lot of energy in honesty and it is always better to be honest than truthful). It is a bright novel, in no way vapid or insipid, and reveals the intelligence of a broad reading within a humanist, historical, and personal canon.
Thrilwell is not a dilettante but employs a staccato pace that is penetrating, unpretentious and once more honest. Just when you think the tread of a reflection or comment in the prose is all but exhausted he takes it one more step; taking his reader well beneath the surface (or even the sheets). The prose is littered with the traces of the past, mostly idiosyncratic bites from the masters of Eastern Europe or political tyrants. He discusses Mao’s venereal diseases and Stalin’s phone manner. There is Bulkacov and Yeates and Stendhal and architectural spattering with semen and threesomes and guilt and love.
It is an endearing novel and the meditative narrator opens the work to the reader through a reflection on the process of writing it which doesn’t privilege the form of the work over the significance (or enjoyment) of the story. He uses ‘I’ in a self-effacing manner rather than an egocentric manner.
And I suppose that if I do the same here, that is reflect upon writing this book review on a web log, then what is gained? There are lots of web logs and many are merely self indulgent naval gazing that have little or no significance to anyone, perhaps not even to the hollowed out author. The worst are web logs that discuss the process of the web log but do nothing more. It is icing without a cake, it is the surface without a soul. The ability to write well is part of the story, but it can never be the whole story. Many tyrants have been able to write well and many chemists have been able to innovate murdering. Many IT specialists have been able to spread ignorance, jealously, greed, shallowness, and inequality more efficiently. Many have not.