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Friday, March 6, 2015

F: A Novel

Honestly, I was originally intrigued by the title. What could a novel called F be about? Daniel Kehlmann shows us. 

Arthur is not the greatest guy in the world. After driving his three sons (including twins from a bit of a liaison) to see a hypnotist, he experiences a revelation and leaves his family (both of them) to seek out enlightenment through his writing. His book featuring character F changes the way the world understands existence. His three sons, however, have difficulty in their own lives. Martin becomes an overweight atheist priest, Eric becomes obsessed with his high-powered job to drown out the noise of the past, and Ivan paints himself in circles. How do we make ourselves come to grip with our experience and learn to be whole again?

Honestly, I picked up this book because the title was F. I didn't necessarily think it had something to do with the f-word, but I was secretly hoping that it might because, well, I'm me. That was not the case. However, that doesn't negate the novels merits.

I had a hard time getting into the novel in the first section, which is when Arthur takes his sons to the hypnotist. It wasn't until I got a little later in the book, and understood who Arthur became when he left his family, that the beginning section completely made sense. That being said, as soon as we jumped into the present day section and the oldest son's priesthood that I was completely hooked. It was fascinating to read about who the sons had become in the wake of their father's abandonment. Because he left so abruptly and with so little care for his kin, his sons are so completely screwed up that there doesn't appear a way out. It also doesn't help that Arthur keeps showing up randomly and managing only to continue the feeling of screwupedness in his children. I was most intrigued by the brothers and their own lack of self exploration as they moved into adulthood. We all know on some level that this kind of abandonment is something that may affect your long-term well-being, and I wouldn't say that these boys are taking it to an extreme. It was an interesting exploration of this type of outcome.

Now onto the father. His novels. Wow. As the book explored these and how that initial experience with the hypnotist caused him to question everything he knows or knew, I found him to be an incredibly fascinating man even if I hated him as a person. I have always been interested in this concept of whether or not you are a good or bad person doesn't change whether or not you are good at your job. It reminds me of actual conversation in college with a friend whose father had cheated on her mother, and at one point she was railing against what a horrible person Bill Clinton was for cheating on his wife. (There was some projecting happening.) My argument was that just because Bill Clinton might have been a bit of a cad doesn't negate his ability to do his job, just as her father's transgressions didn't prevent that him from being very good at what he did in his work. I felt that that is a very similar conversation to what happened in this book. Just some really interesting ideas that this book caused me to explore.

For purchase below. 

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