Antkind by Charlie Kaufman is a truly out of this world adventure about a film critic experiencing and trying to remember a film that last 30 days. It consumes him and his dreams as he figures out what was the film and what was his life. The book relies heavily on how film affects the watcher, and that the film can become a part of you. This book is deeply funny mind trip that only the writer of such films as Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind could write. This is Charlie Kaufman’s first novel and it is a doozy. This is the kind of novel that I think could be heavily discussed in college literature classes, because there’s a lot to explore and debate about, what is part of the film and what is a dream? The book is 720 pages and should have been well over a hundred pages shorter, it has as many endings as Return of the King, I slapped my forehead once of reading more. This is a book that I see being really divided over, some loving while others put it as do not finish. Antkind is a cross between a Kurt Vonnegut novel and A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. Thanks to netgalley and Random House for the copy. Antkind was published on 7-7-20.
The Plot: B. Rosenburger Rosenburg is a film critic that dives deep into the avant garde film. He goes to Florida to dive deep into the a 1908 film that is the first portrayal of a transgender on screen. Upon this trip he meets his neighbor that claims he was in the film, because he is a time traveler. As B. gets to know his neighbor he learns he is a filmmaker and has an animated film featuring puppets that know one has seen before. B. indulges himself and agrees to watch the film, the film that is untitled is 30 days long, it is about the past, present, and future. The filmmaker dies midway through the first watch, but B. is so committed now thinking this the greatest film that he has ever seen continues to watch (as a film critic his rule is to watch a movie 7 times). He doesn’t make it through the second viewing as the film burns up and B. is in a coma. He makes it his life’s work to remember everything, but he soon can’t tell his life from the film as it consumes him and his dreams.
What I Liked: There’s an on going joke about the character of B. being mistaken for jewish because of his name and appearance, that I never grew tired about. There a scene about Donald Tump (or Trunk) as he becomes to enamored with his animatronic robot from Disney’s Hall of Presidents that he orders one and it becomes his best friend. There’s a couple of scenes about Vaudeville duo Mudd and Moroony where a stage accident send one into a coma and changes his outlook on life and wants to play the straight man in the comedy act instead of the foyle. The compromise is two straight men, which is funny because how bad it is. I like the common debate does life imitate art or does art imitate life? B. is a film critic that loathes the films of Charlie Kaufman, and destroys everyone of his films. I like his nicknames for favorite directors. Theirs a lot of praise for filmmakers Judd Apatow and Wes Anderson. I liked a lot of the humor, especially the self analysis humor about his idiosyncrasy.
What I Disliked: Like all first time writers the novel is long and over bloated. I could trim 150 pages easily and have almost the same book. I don’t like the title, at the end of the novel it gets to the meaning of Antkind. The ending was all over the place I saw five times where it could have ended, and kept going and going.
Recommendations: I’m going to barely recommend this, the story is all over the place, it has strong metaphors about life and dreams, with bits of laugh out loud moments. The story is overly long, but there some diamond in the rough moments that really save it. I think literature majors are going to get a lot more out of it than I did; there is a lot to debate and discuss. I rated Antkind by Charlie Kaufman 3 out of 5 stars. This review rating tore me up I kept bouncing back and forth between 3 and 4 stars, but I thought the endings and overly long put it in the barely 3 stars category.