Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Episode 596: The Winner Stands Alone

Slept for about three hours before I woke up. It'd felt like longer though. Couldn't really fall back asleep again, so I started reading Paulo Coelho's The Winner Stands Alone, an unflinching look at the cult of celebrity that has captured the imagination of contemporary society. I personally think the tone of this book is very different from his previous work, and I also think it's structurally not as tight as it should be, even though the entire plot takes place in just 24 hours. Part of the problem is the shift of the narrator from chapter to chapter, which wouldn't be a problem, except that minor characters have whole chapters narrated from their point of view, only for them to die on their next appearance. I suppose you could read this as an embedded commentary on the disposable nature of our culture, but I wonder if that's perhaps giving Coelho too much credit. There is really only so much mileage to be had from slightly didactic paragraphs exposing the hollowness of fame. Oh, and the shifting of tenses feels a little arbitrary, even if it does appear to be justifiable on most occasions. I think it's also pretty ironic that the book only manager to make the Superclass more enviable. For me anyway. Without giving away the ending, I must say I think the construction of the book is fundamentally flawed, especially coming from an author whose work usually negotiates tricky ethical and philosophical questions, but always retains a firm sense of morality. With this latest book, it feels like that moral centre, while not exactly cast aside, has been sidelined.

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