June 6th, 2012 | stuff2012
|I read this book in two sittings – half on the train ride out to Hay, half on the train ride back. Paul Mason is the economics editor for BBC Newsnight. You might expect a novel by that person to be as sober and measured as that programme. It’s really, really not. A pissed hack in the last extremis of anything that can be called “reporting” in commercial broadcasting, trying and failing to add heft to a doomed shoot in China, trips over the worst thing he could possibly encounter: an actual story. And that’s when things get weird.
What I really liked about this book is its refusal to do anything easy. Even what seems like the looming obligatory “creepy vicarious sex scene” sex scene turns into a hilarious nightmare that sees said pissed hack kicked half to death for his uselessness.
At the heart of it all is an attempt to understand China: or, at least an attempt to define the reasons why the West so consistently fails to understand China.
It does that by embracing the surreality of life there – teasing out the strangenesses until the real things present as so goddamn weird that the inventions appear grounded by comparison. And every element, and more or less every character, reveals its true nature by stages.
I don’t want to rattle on – these are supposed to be quick notes – but I had a lot of fun with this odd, clever little book. I think that if you in general like my stuff, you’d find a lot to enjoy in RARE EARTH.