Ratz Are Nice - Lawrence Ytzhak Braithwaite
I should have taken flight when I saw Denis Cooper had reviewed this favourably. I just canít get on with Cooperís books, but theyíre a walk in the park compared to this. I actually find this hard to review because, to be honest, the book left me utterly bemused. Itís not in English for a start. It has letters, some of which are strung together into words, but they donít make actual sense. How can you review that?
I think the book is narrated by a punk who hangs around in a street gang. I think heís sort of gay. Other than that I got nothing from this book.
Donít believe the hype. Itís, oh, so cool to like anything that smacks of cool. Pretentious culture vultures swooping down to praise anything that deals with issues. And hence Brokeback Mountain didnít win an Oscar, and some forgettable film called Crash did.† Have I had my Brokeback-Mountain-didnít-win-the-Oscar rant before? Sorry. Have people forgotten what a good narrative with strong characters and plot is? God forbid they try to make this nonsense into a film.
I hated this book.† Donít know why I bothered to finish it.† 150 pages (the rest are explanatory notes) and I have NO idea what itís about.
Yet with passages like Heís got lips, up close they could stop a speeding train.† So soft, I could use my mouth and finger to meet it and leave my fist to hold my heart itís not as if Braithwaite canít write.
Iíve read novels written in dialect before so itís not like thatís an insurmountable hurdle either, though it doesnít make for easy reading and only puts you off more if youíre not engaged by the story.† The main problem is there is no coherent storyline and with headswitches all over the place I didnít have a clue much of the time who was supposed to be speaking.† It doesnít help that the writing varies between 1st & 3rd person.†† The innovative narrative style with Ďmultiethnic lyrical phrasingí praised on the cover to me was incomprehensible, difficult and just plain boring since I couldnít make head nor tail of it.† Playing with typography becomes annoying if youíre not involved in the story.
The novel explores the intersecting stories of rival skinhead crews, seen through the eyes of Edison, a black skinhead.† Drugs, drink, music, dancing, sex and violence punctuate their lives.† Some sleep with each other but are not identifiably gay, their sexuality as fluid as the subcultures they flirt with.
I still canít remember why we added the book to our list Ömustíve read something somewhere.† Dennis Cooper is quoted on the back cover saying itís Ďincredibly goodí, Ďoriginalí (that should set off warning bells) and Ďexcitingí.† Hmmn.†
A mishmash of neoNazi skinheads, gay subculture, street punk, white boys who want to be blackÖI donít know, maybe Iím just too old and middle-class for youth cult fiction.†
Not saying itís rubbish just not my thing so I canít judge.
The Authorís Notes at the end provide interesting details about youth subculture but didnít help translate the book. †Take my advice and avoid.† Though it occurs to me it could make a decent film in the manner of Bruce Labruce, with visual narrative providing clarity and emotional engagement with characters lacking from the novel.