This Writing Life
Writer and psychologist.
View all posts by Ian Hocking
I couldn’t finish it. Was just too damn silly to me. John Nike? A plot to kill people who buy shoes?
I love absurdity, but only when the absurd is juxtaposed against the ordinary. There is nothing ordinary in Jennifer Government. I felt like I was trying to appreciate absurdity in a world overstuffed with it.
I have a similar problem with Douglas Adams (blasphemy, I know).
What good is absurdity when every nuance of every sentence is absurd? There’s such a thing as self-restraint.
Plus, Barry’s book seemed to avoid providing any alternative to his excessive absurdist capitalism. What’s his idea of a better world? I’m inclined to think Marxism, but he never really gets to a point, does he?
For all the jokes, too many holes and too many things left unsaid. A total farce of a story… but maybe that’s the point?
Thanks for your thoughts, Eric. I guess I viewed it as a comedy first of all, and as a satire I think it can operate in a universe whether silly stuff just happens. Of course, I didn’t think that at the time; it just ‘worked’.
You’re right, there’s nothing ordinary…
A problem with Douglas Adams? *splutter* 🙂
True, Barry doesn’t really provide an alternative. Then again, I don’t think he has to for it to be a good work of fiction. Orwell’s 1984 doesn’t provide an alternative, but makes some good points. I think it was interesting to take the ideas to an extreme…though it wasn’t necessarily the ideas that made the book for me. I found it funny, shocking, occasionally profound and knowingly idiotic. My kind of book!
It’s just my personal nitpick. I like my absurdism stacked against reality for contrast.
An all-out absurdo-fest tends to water down the effectiveness of absurd humor itself. It’s like laughing hysterically until you start to develop a headache and get really tired. At that point it’s not funny anymore.
I think that type of ‘burn’ happens a little quicker on things that are ‘pure’ in their absurdism, and don’t have any ordinary/realism based counterweights or offsets.
That’s my theory on absurdism in measured doses, anyway. 🙂
I’m just bein’ a grump on the subject. It wasn’t my cup O’ tea, that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying it.
1984 as a comedy doesn’t really work for me. I’m more of a serious dystopia kind of guy. So be it!
I’d be curious to read what others here think of it.
I enjoyed this when it first came out a few years back, but it did feel distinctly lightweight for the subject matter — still quite enjoyable though. It does take some of the ideas from the classic SF novel The Space Merchants though, which is a much more interesting read.
JenGov was picked by one of our SF book group to do the other year and pretty much split opinions between the love it, hate it camp and again, even among the love it camp there was a feeling it could have done with a bit more depth. But then it might not have been as much fun, so swings and roundabouts…
Interesting point, Joe. I think the Space Merchants was mentioned in the book, wasn’t it?
As for depth…I see what you mean. For me, I thought the daughter angle added a lot to Jennifer’s character, but it’s true that the background of John Nike wasn’t explored at length. I guess it didn’t seem like a problem to me at the time. And, in some ways, I didn’t think the book was aiming to be particularly deep — it was a cartoonish future with cartoonish characters. But maybe I’m missing something!
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