Crudo: A Novel

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An artist who may or may not be Kathy Acker is vacationing with her soon-to-be husband in Italy in the middle of the tumultuous aftermath of the 2016 election. Kathy is forty, about to marry for the first time, and scared of commitment in a world on the brink of disaster every day thanks to President Trump’s inability to be, well, presidential.

Kathy is loosely based on writer Olivia Laing’s own life; at age forty, Olivia married Ian, a writer 29 years her senior, which is just what Kathy does in this novel. But Kathy is also an impression of artist Kathy Acker. Lines from Acker’s personal journals and notebooks pepper Crudo to develop a persona that is equal parts fixated on the goings on of Twitter, celebrity culture, and the political sphere and annoyed by those goings on. Kathy is unlikable, and Laing is out of her element in writing her first work of fiction.

Prior books by Laing fell into the nonfiction category and were by and large successful because of the level of observation Laing employs when studying a subject. In Crudo, however, those details lack the judicious eye of her nonfiction, perhaps because Kathy shares commonalities with the writer.

The book is funny in spots, wry and witty and humorous in the “ah-ha” sort of way rather than that of the chuckle or chortle, but it takes itself far too seriously to be truly enjoyable. Essentially, the book is the literary equivalent of a hipster in too tight pants and a knit sweater riding a 1920s bicycle on a hot afternoon in city traffic; it’s uncomfortable, ill-conceived, and trying far too hard.

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Author Olivia Laing
Star Count 3/5
Format Hard
Page Count 160 pages
Publisher W. W. Norton & Company
Publish Date 2018-09-11
ISBN 9780393652727
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue Mar-19
Category Modern Literature


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