1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
November 15, 2006
I'll start by saying I'm one of the few people who hasn't read "Life of Pi", so I didn't have any expectations going into this. I'll also say reading "Self" doesn't make me want to read anything else by Martel. If it's as dull and dreary, count me out.
I heard the premise of this book from someone else and was intrigued. In researching my purchase I found out it's a loose modernization of Virginia Woolf's "
While Woolf's writing is alive with wit and whimsy, Martel's is a dull grind punctuated by outbursts of graphic descriptions of potty training, masturbation, menstruation, just about every sexual position, and rape. In between those we have dull, cliche, or trite insights from our unnamed narrator. Self manages the amazing feat of being uninteresting as both male and female.
For the moment to focus strictly on "Self" the book is about Self who is born a man and then after his parents die in a plane crash while he's in prep school he starts to become female, the final change occurring during a trip to Portugal. From there she goes to college, having an affair with a professor, has a lesbian affair in Greece/Turkey, works on a couple bad novels, and finds true love in
The end is the only thing that saved "Self" in my mind from rating one-star. There's a very tragic twist--I've provided a clue above somewhere--that was painful to read and the ensuing aftermath was enough to put me in a funk the rest of the night. That's some effective writing. The rest, not so much.
A problem I have actually with "Self" and "
There's another question of logic too. In "
As mentioned above, Self doesn't really do a heck of a lot before or after the change. After an opening on potty training there's a flood of dull childhood memories about fish in the eyes and boiling carrots and so forth. There's one brief fling with a girl in seventh grade that doesn't get far. Then there's going off to the private school, where Self is pretty much invisible. Then comes the plane crash, which isn't all that exciting as written, the trip to
In the end "Self" is a dull slog and "
Of course in my opinion "Middlesex" by Jeffrey Eugenides trumps both of these books. It deals with the same issues in a different, more realistic way that's just as much fun as Woolf. That's my pick of the litter.
That is all.