I think the title of this book says it all – Raymond Gunt, our protagonist, is quite simply the worst person ever. But for some reason, I read the book anyway, mostly just to see what ludicrous situation Raymond would wind up in next, and whether or not he’d learn anything from it. He never did, but the book is entertaining anyway. The basic premise: Raymond is an unemployed B Camera operator in London. His ex-wife gets him a job filming an American reality TV show in the South Pacific. He recruits a homeless man out of a cardboard box on his block to be his assistant, then makes his way to LA, then on to the South Pacific, offending nearly everyone he encounters along the way. He kills a show executive with insults, gets stopped by Homeland Security, and manages to instigate a nuclear incident before he even gets to the film site, and just when you think Ray can’t sink any lower, he does. Blah blah, the end. (And though you’d like karma to work and Ray to suffer, the ending is vaguely happy.)
You have to like a book where the character who gets fished out of a cardboard box turns out to be the most morally upstanding of the lot. The homeless but cultured Neal is basically a good man, but not naive – he knows better than to take any crap from Ray. I think Neal is the real reason I read this. Everyone else is not as bad as Ray, but certainly none of the characters surrounding him are going to win any humanitarian awards – they’re all jerks.
Best for fans of Douglas Coupland – i.e., people who loved Generation X and actually get the Smiths reference in Girlfriend in a Coma. Also good for anyone who has every worked in the entertainment industry. Not good for anyone offended by Very Poor Behavior, sexist pigs, insult comedy and/or crass descriptions of people, places, and things.
Readalike: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole