Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Book Review: My Revolutions, by Hari Kunzru

After reading Hari Kunzru's God's Without Men, I was very interested in reading more of Kunzru's work.  Without too much thought to which of his previously written works I'd select, I picked up My Revolutions.  The lead character of this novel, Michael Frame (or Chris Carver, as we come to find out), doesn't present a lot of positive qualities the reader can latch on to.  He is an emotionally numb, middle aged man who barely presents the picture of working, largely being supported by his entrepreneurial wife.

The separation of his values from hers triggers memories of his youth, inserts distance between them and leads him into a chase to find his old self, or his old self in the eyes of an ex-lover, who he believes he has seen (despite being dead) on a trip to the south of France.

This vision triggers his memory of his past as a radical revolutionary, fighting against a capitalist establishment, the very embodiment of which he now sees in his wife.  So he runs away...  he escapes in search of his dead former lover, in search of some vision of himself that he wants to see, something better than what he has become.

As a reader, I'm never convinced that the "self" he is searching for is better or worse than the "self" he feels he has become.  I don't see a lot of positive qualities in either character.  This is the meat of what Hari Kunzru seems quite good at, which is to keep me reading despite not really liking the reality I'm reading about.

When describing the younger years in Michael/Chris' life, there is an absolute grittiness overwhelming any sense of the "youthful revolutionary cool" that one might expect.  Parties, love affairs, drinking, and drugs do nothing to glamorize the criminal, addiction-fueled and often violent moral righteousness he and his group of friends impose, all from the dingy dwellings they overtake.

Kunzru's ability to turn emotional revulsion into a somewhat morbid curiosity, be it to find out how low the character can sink, or whether he'll emerge in any way more positive a light, keeps the reader plugged into this novel.  It's a page turner you never really feel good about, but don't want to walk away from either; something under the covers you wouldn't sign up to see but can't take your eyes off.

While I much prefer God's Without Men, My Revolutions was a great read.  What it confirmed most in my mind is that Kunzru is one of the most exciting authors of this generation, and I'll certainly add him to my list of must-buy authors (Mitchell, Marukami, etc..) as I eagerly await his next book.

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