more anguish over that book
One has to wonder if Riding read the book at all. He gushes over Beigbeder and omits any reference to those parts of the novel that read like third-rate porn and portray America as having deserved the attacks of 9/11 for being obsessed with money and material things; for being consumers, so to speak.
No, I have not read the book. But I have read enough excerpts to know that the story is an appalling view of what happened in the Windows of the World restaurant on 9/11. Though some have taken issue with W's excerpts over at Merde in France, stating that W. has ulterior motives and might not have given a correct translation, I took it upon myself to seek out a few translators here in my building who are fluent in French. They gave the same translations as W.
It is not a matter of context, either. Reviewing the book as Riding did without alluding to the crass portions of the story where Beigbeder has the victims - identified only by the designer labels of the clothing they are wearing - engaging in hedonistic sex, is to do omit a large part of what has made the book so popular in France.
Instead, Riding focuses on the part of the story where a father and his sons are having breakfast in the restaurant:
He tries to reassure the boys that it is a simulated accident to test security procedures, but they soon see through the ruse. As panic spreads and the heat become unbearable, Yorston and his sons prepare to die.
Yet for all that, Mr. Beigbeder has not written a movie-style action story.
He hasn’t? What about this excerpt, one that was toted by the publishers before the book hit the shelves? (again, translated by several different people with the same results):
- As far as I'm concerned, it's simple: forget the Porsche, I'm liquid, said the brown haired guy wearing Kenneth Cole. But I'm sure that 2002 will be better, just wait until Greenspan does his thing on the rates. - I love you, said the blond wearing Ralph Lauren. - I want to launch a hostile takeover on you, said the brown haired guy wearing Kenneth Cole. - Leave your fucking wife, said the blond wearing Ralph Lauren. - OK, I swear I'll tell her everything this evening when I get back from the health spa, said the brown haired guy wearing Kenneth Cole. And they French kissed real deep, using alot of tongue just like in the California made porno films and perfume commercials.
No, maybe it’s not movie-style action. It’s more like straight-to-Cinemax action, which is a serious slap in the face to anyone who suffered on that day. And most of us did suffer, whether we knew someone who died in those attacks or not.
Riding then goes on to help explain why Beigbeder wrote the book at all:
"In the face of American self-censorship, I wanted to give form to this tragedy," [Beigbeder] said, adding that American television viewers saw "an asceptic, almost clinical" version of events. He said he wanted "to reinject colors, smells, noises, to reintroduce the human dimension that has been carefully removed," adding, "A novel should enter forbidden territory."
We do not need Mr. Beigbeder to “give form” to such a tragedy. It already has form for us. What asceptic, clinical versions of the events is he referring to? Watching the second plane crash into the towers? Seeing the posters and cards tacked to the walls, pictures of missing people desperately being searched for by their families, the harrowing stories of the firemen who rushed into the building in order to get others out? Colors, noises and smells? Just ask anyone who was in the vicinity of NYC that day about the smells and noises. And what colors do we need to know except the colors of flames and smoke? Does it matter that someone was wearing a blue Donna Karan suit? No, it would not matter if they were wearing a Blue Light special from K-Mart. And I certainly fail to see where the human dimension has been removed from that day. What gall this man has to assume that he can sit in “while breakfasting at Ciel de Paris, the 56th-floor restaurant in the Tour Montparnasse, the tallest building in Paris” and channel what the people in the Windows on the World were thinking and feeling at those moments. The arrogance is astounding.
I spoke to W about this today in email and he gave me permission to excerpt a few of his choice words, but you would do best to keep checking over at Merde in France, where W. will be writing about this review, the book and the other books mentioned in Riding’s empty review.
W. thinks that perhaps Riding never really read the book at all:
Note that the reviewer omits any mention of the chapters with the nameless characters (only identified by their clothing labels). I find that a bit curious and it leads me to believe that the reviewer is just gushing over promotional material from Grasset (the publisher) rather than taking in the entire book.
W. also said:
Beigbeder defends the book as siding with the victims (ie. writing about, and therefore living vicariously, the experience from their point of view). This is the line that the French literati, and the NYT, have adopted. That is all well and good but then of course you have to read the book and see if the content (ie. the excerpts I have sent to you and posted on my site) are appropriate.
I'm sorry but the book contains vile, exploitive content and the worst excerpt (the porno scene at the end) was actually selected for promoting the novel.
Rumor has it that Beigbeder will be nominated for the Goncourt literary prize for this novel.
Once again, the comments will be filled with people saying I am French-bashing, but at this moment (though I did in previous posts about this) I am not. I am Beigbeder-bashing. And I am taking Andrew Riding to task for glossing over what is an inflammatory, insulting and degrading book, in light of the real tragedy that occurred in that restaurant. The publishers released a statement a while ago that said the only way to know what happened in the Windows on the World that day is to make it up. Not so. There are real transcripts of telephone calls from real people saying real words.
I don’t have to read the whole book to know that just the one part where Beigbeder turns tragedy to porn makes the rest of the story a complete washout. I don’t care if there is Pulitzer type writing throughout the rest of the book; the fact that Beigbeder chose to play fast and furious with the last moments of the lives of real people - and less than two years gone since it happened - leaves the rest of the book tainted by the poison that exists within it.
If you want to know the "human dimension" and colors and smells and noises of that day that Beigbeder seems to think has disappeared or maybe weren't even there at all, go listen to (read) these Voices.