We all know that Planet Earth is fooked, right? That you and I are like those toffs on the Titanic, gorging ourselves on oysters as we dance the night away, blind to that iceberg waiting patient in the dark… No? Well never mind, because Jarret Kobek surely knows. Unfortunately though, the Turkish-American debut novelist has no interest in sounding the alarm; in saving our wretched souls. As the good ship goes down, he’ll be there laughing at the wailers and their lamentations; at the rats scurrying overboard, as well as at the proud Captain, all alone at the helm. Because he saw that iceberg, and knew that we were incapable of changing course. I Hate the Internet, a novel which is part story (about the evils of Das Kapital), but mostly ex tempor rant, warps and wefts and comes together to form a cogent whole packing thermo-nuclear heat.
The story, such as it is, centres on a female comic book artist, Adeline, on the outer ring of fame within that niche world. Still riding the waves some twenty years after her work first garnered attention, she is invited to talk to university students about her craft. As the conversation flows she finds her groove, and waxes lyrical on her aversion to the Internet, before a student challenges her:
“But, like, don’t you like, think that, you know, Facebook and Twitter can serve, like, a role in the pursuit of, like, social progress?”
And in answering, she opens up a whole world of pain for herself:
“Pray tell, sweet flower, what is social progress? … Social progress might have had meaning twenty years ago when I was a young thing, but these days it’s become the product of corporations. But what do you people know, anyway? You’re a lost generation. Even your drugs are corporate. You spend your lives pretending as if Beyoncé and Rihanna possess some inherent meaning and act as if their every professional success, which only occur because of your money and your attention, is a strike forward for women everywhere. Which is sheer nonsense and poppycock, oh my wretches.”
She had criticised Rihanna. SHE HAD CRITICISED BEYONCÉ. SHE HAD CALLED OUT TWITTER AS A SINK-HOLE FOR NARCISSISTS AND/OR THE STUPID. Her life would not be the same again…
The structure of the novel – a regular narrative spliced with the author’s barefaced opinions on everything from literary fiction to the Arab Spring and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, could have failed miserably; *should* have failed miserably. But it’s sublime – immense, hilarious, touching genius, but ultimately dark and tragic. Almost every page contains a paragraph, a line even that stops the reader dead. One is left reeling, wondering why no-one has called out such simple truths before. Whether one agrees, disagrees, is offended or even alarmed – the sheer artistry on display here strikes out all such concerns.
In I Hate the Internet, Kobek holds capitalism in his crosshairs. Via the hooks of the comic book and Internet industries, he expounds upon a theory of capitalism’s hardwired cruelty. But what he is really saying is that we are all well and truly fooked.
Any Cop?: Jarrett Kobek is going to be huge. Just remember – you heard the name here first.