Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Terrorist - - Kookiejar's Review
I generally like Updike's work. In his Rabbit Angstrom series he encapsulated the American experience through 4 decades, and taken as a whole, may go down in history as 'The Great American Novel".
"Terrorist", however, will probably go down in history as "when John Updike jumped the shark".
"Terrorist" treads many familiar Updike themes, religion, patriotism, consumerism, infidelity and marriage. It is the story of a teenage boy of half Arab ancestry who adopts the religion and culture of his absent father, but gets sucked into the ugly, fanatical side of Islam. The crux of the story is, will he or won't he fulfill his perceived destiny and blow up the truck bomb as he's been instructed to do.
However this novel, although well-written, is just not believable. The boy, Ahmad, talks like a 70 year old man who is trying to sound like a teenager. His main rival at school is a black boy named Tylenol (Really, Mr Updike? Tylenol? I know people sometimes give their children silly names, but this is beyond my ken), and the guidance counselor who becomes a surrogate father to Ahmad (a character we are supposed to root for, mind you), is such a bitter, cruel, mean-spirited misogynist I wish Ahmad would have blown him up.
The only part of the novel that I really enjoyed were the parts where we spent time with the guidance counselor's wife. She is a pathetic, fat mess of a woman (and married to that man, you can sympathize with her apathy about her life), who turns out to be more useful and vital than even she knew. If the novel focused on her part in the story instead of relegating her to a short chapter, I would have been a lot happier with it.
Read this if you want to but I say, you'd be better off reading something else.