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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

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Robertson Davies
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The Instructions

The Instructions - Adam Levin

Over the years I've learned that I have a great fondness for postmodernist leanings in literature. I've also learned that this fondness only goes so far. Stories which implement postmodernist techniques favor strongly with me; however, experiments of wordplay where the story, if there ever was one, gets lost grate on my nerves. Before I even opened the book I was expecting such a grating reaction with The Instructions. And when I started that first chapter, I knew this novel was going to be a huge test of my patience. One thousand and thirty pages of wordplay and witticisms. But, I'll admit, from the beginning it was more tolerable than your average Postmodernist novel. I didn't love it, but I knew I'd be able to make it through. But I really liked the story. And it only got better. And before long I came to appreciate these implausible ten-year old kids and their ridiculous speech. The story was far-fetched, but in an intriguing and fun way. Then, in those final three hundred pages, I didn't want to put it down.

I don't believe that The Instructions is for everyone. I know people who would hate it and why waste my time trying to convince them? But I also know there are people like myself who probably wouldn't give it a try if it weren't for those insisting they read it (people like Joseph Michael Owens). Had it not been for such insistence, I doubt I ever would've really given this tome more than a passing glance. But for all the heavy-laden postmodern books I've read, this has got to be my favorite. And what's interesting is that while it feels long, it doesn't feel that long. In fact, compared to a book such as The Crying of Lot 49, a novel 1/5 the size, The Instructions felt short.

So that's what I think of the book, but aside from my personal feelings I have to say this is quite an impressive work. Developing such an extensive novel while maintaining such a myriad of characters, layers, and richness of words is a feat to be marveled. It is the kind of work that I myself as a writer cannot understand how it was put together by another human. Adam Levin must either be a highly-functioning man with ADHD, a massive coffee and/or other stimulant user, or a robot gone haywire. Damn, some days I wish I was a robot.