Wednesday, June 26, 2013


No book that I actually finished has ever made me want more to take a shower after the last page (no, not even one by Chuck Wendig. I KNOW!) more than Ned Beauman's debut novel, Boxer, Beetle. It was therefore with a trepidation only partly assuaged by my knowledge that my best reading pal SJ loved this one that I began The Teleportation Accident.

The cover helped.

Misleading as it is as to its contents.

What's inside is often unspeakably foul, vaguely misogynist (at one point early on the phrase "non-mercenary vulva" is used to describe a theoretical female who might be kind enough to sleep with our protagonist) and reads a lot like one might imagine a (wildly unlikely) collaboration between Robert Silverberg and Douglas Adams would, if it were set in pre WWII Berlin, Paris and Los Angeles (with a little -- a very little --  and the wrong bits of -- Henry Miller thrown in). I was craving a shower before I'd even finished one chapter. But...


Well, I did not mention Douglas Adams lightly, except instead of gentle absurdist/parodic humor, the humor one is slapped in the face with every few lines is nasty and sordid and really pretty repugnant, but funny nonetheless. Funny enough to make even the most umbrage-taking feminist keep on reading, even if she winds up hating herself for it. As in chock full of lines like "the moon over Berlin shone bright as a bare bulb in a toilet cubicle." Ha ha ha and eww.

As for what it's about, well, it's sort of a companion piece to Boxer, Beetle in that it, too, is largely concerned with Germany in the 1930s, but where many characters in that book are obsessed in various ways with the Nazis, those in The Teleportation Accident, even though unlike the Boxer, Beetles they are from Berlin, are pretty much oblivious to them. Egon Loeser and his friends are more concerned about parties and pussy and scoring some decent cocaine -- or a corkscrew -- no, an actual corkscrew, jeeze -- than about world or local affairs. Politics is for people who can't handle art.* "History happened while you were hungover," the tagline says. And for these people it's so true that it's only when Loeser chases his ill-chosen anima projection, one Adele Hitler**, to Los Angeles (via Paris) that he gets even an inkling of what is happening to the Jews in his home city and country, and this only in that people he meets in LA assume he's a refugee like everybody else -- and assume he knows why they might think this.

So this book could almost be an exploration of how people could remain carefully, willfully ignorant of one of history's greatest crimes right up until it was too late for them to do anything about it. So described, this book becomes somewhat admirable (I'd posit it's this quality that got it listed for the Man Booker prize). But that makes it no less tough to take. But I suppose I'm supposed to admire that as well.

The book does, though, get a few bonus points for playing a bit with an amusing conceit -- that H.P. Lovecraft's fiction wasn't really fiction but just sort of veiled/fictionalized references to staggeringly difficult concepts in particle physics and dimensions and whatnot -- but like so many of the neat ideas tossed around in here, it doesn't get the attention it deserves. It's kind of like Randy from A Christmas Story opening his presents. Wow, oh neat, wow, yeah, and RIIIIIIIP into the next package. Except the Lovecraft stuff is not the toy zeppelin we see the kid asleep and cradling at the end. The Lovecraft stuff is the socks.

And speaking of the end, or rather, the four ends, the words "Scooby Doo Ending" kept coming to mind. And even though the very last bit where [REDACTED] turns out to be [REDACTED] in [REDACTED] is pretty cool and amusing, that last of the four epilogues is really the most interesting bit of the book. So interesting, in fact, that I wound up wishing I'd gotten to read that book instead of this one.

Ah, me.

*Of course, in no small part that proved to be quite true, as Adolph Hitler was famously a failed artist.

**No relation to Adolph, we learn in very casual passing.

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