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Benediction Kindle Edition
|Length: 312 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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Top customer reviews
I like angst as much as the next guy, but this book just went over the edge into outright depression.
The main character, for instance, is a repugnant human being. That has nothing to do with his illness. The only thing he seems to do well is office politics in a software company - and he even fails at that, as the security guards escort him to the street.
He's also a first-time film director, of a slender, short movie that appears to be not very good. It wins an award in Turin, but gets bashed bloody in San Francisco.
But the book is mostly about three things: his alcoholism (and drug abuse) and his prostate cancer which is, eventually, going to kill him (perhaps sooner than later), plus the abusive way he treats all the people around him, especially those who love him.
I find it difficult to read any book where I can't identify with at least one character, and this is definitely one of them. If I acted like the MC, I would be too ashamed to show my face in public. The one character who looked like he might be worthwhile and likable, one of his cancer doctors, screws him bareback while he's too drunk to notice.
He has never had a falling out with his father, who obviously loves him, but he hasn't called him in five years - and when he travels to New York to see his son's film, Ben just can't be bothered NOT to go to a gay bathhouse for anonymous sex on his way to meet him, resulting in all kinds of mayhem, including a visit to the hospital.
Before you buy this book, you need to know that there are at least six chapters dedicated to incontinence, with vivid descriptions of his catheter and bag, not to mention the constantly spreading urine stains down the leg of his pants. I don't know about you, but definitely not my cup of tea.
I can't imagine why the author wrote such a terribly depressing and dis-likable book - whether it is partly or fully autobiographical or he's obsessed, in some way, with dying slowly of a messy and regrettable disease.
But in either case, there were some editing problems (or at least I think they were unintentional), throughout the book, that drove me mad. I don't know if this was an affectation or just a terrible mistake, but you'll find, plopped into the middle of sentences inappropriately, either "Jim Arnold" (the author's name) or "Benediction" (the title of the book). These are not actual quotes (although close), but don't be surprised when you read something like "I was walking to Jim Arnold the top of the hill". Or, even worse, "Benediction A walk to the park might be good" - two capitals, no period or other punctuation. That MUST be an editing error, right? No one could write that self-consciously, intentionally.
And if you're going to write about software moguls, please do your research first. In one line, he comments about someone else that "he got rich creating a videoconferencing logarithm." A logarithm is a mathematical concept - it has nothing to do with software. I'm sure the author meant "algorithm", which is the software term for a particular line or lines of code that perform one action or evoke a given result.
All in all, this was one of the most unpleasant books I've ever read and, now that I finished reading it, I must admit that I'm sorry I didn't put it down earlier. I kept hoping it would get better, or at very least, develop. It didn't.
And, did I forget to mention that this book is really, really slow - a lot of words for not much happening. How many interesting pages can one write about an adult diaper?
The main characters in "Benediction" are fully developed and the narrative clever. I thought the internal process (emotional & mental) regarding the cancer diagnoses extraordinarily layered and complex. The Badlands(a bar & dance venue in San Francisco Castro for the hot younger crowd)demographic and invisible comment by Ben spot on - the need to still be desirable when no longer in that demographic poignantly relatable especially in light of his current situation. Yet there were moments when I had difficulty sympathizing with Ben's plight as a result his self destructive behavior and inability to cope - perhaps because the author did such a fine job of creating such a clearly intelligent man - I wanted him to stop wallowing in self pity and make better choices, which means the author successfully engaged me in becoming invested in Ben's struggles.
Overall, "Benediction" is an absorbing novel that captures one man's journey through a health crisis and emotional minefield. Is he a sympathetic character? No, not always, but that is the real humanity and beauty of Ben's story. I read the book in just a few hours, but there were times when I was slogging my way through it,and felt completely exhausted when I finished - however, it was worth every minute.
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