Karoo: A Novel Paperback – April 20, 2004
An Amazon Book with Buzz: "Somebody's Daughter" by Ashley C. Ford
"Ashley C. Ford is a writer for the ages, and 'Somebody's Daughter' will be A BOOK OF THE YEAR."—Glennon Doyle Learn more
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Explore similar books
From the Back Cover
- Publisher : Grove Press, Open City Books; Reprint edition (April 20, 2004)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 400 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1890447374
- ISBN-13 : 978-1890447373
- Item Weight : 1.18 pounds
- Dimensions : 6 x 1 x 10 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #717,221 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Hero Saul Karoo is a repairman for faulty screenplays. Though he works for Hollywood, he lives in New York. He is successful and wealthy. But he is a sick man. He is, in his 50s, not just overweight, but fat. He is a confirmed alcoholic, but what is worse, he has developed an immunity against alcohol. He has been rendered permanently sober by some mysterious disease. No amount of booze can make him drunk. He could just as well quit if that wouldn't disappoint his wife, who bases her approach to divorce entirely on his drinking. See, he is a good man.
His main emotional disease is his fear of privacy. That has ruined his marriage, in his view. It also keeps him away from his son, who craves personal attention from dad. He feels at home only when in other people's homes. It also makes him unable to have any other lasting relationship. He has just one friend left.
He is also a confirmed cynic and realist. He knows what talent is and he knows that he doesn't have it. He can never write anything original. He even has re-writer's block.
His divorce is dragging on, because, in his words, the advantages of an unhappy marriage are not easily dismissed.
He loathes his Hollywood employers, but then, feeling semi-decent is one of the fringe benefits of associating with evil.
An intelligent, amusing lightweight, if you got nothing better to do. Mainly for the aging male population. One might see it as a companion volume to the Bucket List movie, making old geezers chuckle about their friends' difficulties.
The humor is very dark; there could not be a happy ending. Satire of commercial movie-making is vicious. A novel to re-read, 'cause I'm sure I missed a lot.
The terrific, absolutely marvelous first two thirds are even showing you which direction to go in... Don't force YOUR preconceived ideas on the plot, but instead let the story take you where IT wants to go...
Alas, my pleas were in vain.
This is not a cohesive novel. Instead we see a whiny, self-indulgent Karoo flailing from one Manhattan-centric cliche after another: the Upper West Side dinner parties, the young city women carouses with as he halfheartedly tries to bed them, a neglected son with the soul of an artist, boozy dinners in restaurants with associates he can't stand, a humorless accountant and pestering doctor, a long-suffering ex-wife.
It's like watching a Woody Allen movie devoid of any humor -- all complaint and self-destruction without even the slightest wink toward the absurd. In the middle of this poorly-drawn midlife maelstrom is Saul Karoo, who doesn't care that he has no reason for his actions, which mostly consists of lying to those around him.
There is nothing fun, or funny, in Karoo's world. Instead he makes bold gestures, over the protests of his accountant, to not get health insurance. And he goes on for several pages rationalizing that his decision was an act of defiance. Seriously. Health insurance. Karoo is a script doctor, Hollywood insider's screenwriting guru -- certainly fertile ground for absurdity and humor. Not in this novel. Karoo's relationship to the industry or to his writing is less important than to his next drink. And even when he drinks he's not interesting.
Maybe this is what happens to a wealthy alcoholic on the wrong side of 50. Life shrinks to a caustic little existence, an infinite loop of the same actions, same results. Even Tesich's occasional attempts to give Karoo's philosophical musings meaning fall flat because Karoo truly has nothing to contribute. He rails, but there's nothing to rail against. He yearns, but there's nothing Karoo yearns for. He's just a drinking, eating Manhattan meatbag, and I didn't care what happened to him, or to those unfortunate enough to be around him.
It's hard to believe that it was written by the same person who wrote the screenplay for the wonderful, life-affirming "Breaking Away." Perhaps the 1980s weren't kind to Steve Tesich...
Top reviews from other countries
Early on I realised I was reading a modern tragedy – not something I normally do – and a tragedy that follows all of Aristotle’s waypoints. Karoo is a Hollywood re-writer, nicknamed ‘Doc’ because he can revive failed scripts or re-edit finished films into being ‘better’ i.e. more commercial, though Saul Karoo himself can’t write original stories to save his life. He is 50-ish, drinks a lot but can’t get drunk any more, smokes like a furnace, is separated and mid-divorce, has a serious problem with his/their adopted son and, as his soon to be ex-wife indicates in a number of set-piece restaurant harangues, maims, destroys and defiles everyone he comes into contact with. An anti-hero in spades. A doomed man. A feelgood story it is not. If you read it, and I heartily recommend you do, there are no happy endings, not for anyone – except perhaps for the smiling, charming and wholly evil figure Cromwell, a genuine Hollywood Mogul, a 24 carat, six-cylinder Satan whom Karoo works for.
Saul Karoo is empty. It is this emptiness we explore and suffer alongside him in the 406 pages. Is this just how ‘Hollywood’ is? I don’t know, but because the author Steve Tesich worked in the film industry I strongly suspect so. But this book is at its core a human tragedy and Karoo is sucked in to Hollywood immorality because he will cut and reassemble ‘difficult’ movies to order. There is fallout: the worst is the young director of a re-cut film, crushed and in despair who kills himself. This is the moral baseline we’re at in the book.
Pace: the story takes time to ignite; after a slow burn in the first 100 pages it is completely riveting, just as John Niven said it would be.
No spoilers but… Karoo encounters the once teenage girl now grown up who birthed the baby who became his adopted son. He tracks her down years later and things start to happen. She and Karoo become lovers. Birth mother and adopted son meet. In fact, Karoo takes the three of them off on holiday where, well, stuff happens. How it unfolds is brilliantly written: the reader can see, can read between the lines what is going on but Karoo is oblivious.
Story arc: the progress of ‘Karoo’ is a slow downward spiral to ever lower and lower circles of human maltreating human and bad morals. The book is written almost entirely in the first person and the author, film screenwriter [and Oscar Winner for Downhill Racer] Steve Tesich, sadly dead in 1991 at 53, writes well, often with insightful references to Tolstoy, Shakespeare, Flaubert, occasionally beautifully and always engagingly. Intrigued, I looked him up, obituaries and all. Tesich was an immigrant from Yugoslavia as it was then, to America at age 14, learning and writing thence in English about observing his adopted country, and that is what the novel ‘Karoo’ is, a penetrating observation of that part of America with no soul.
You see the ultimate train wreck coming even though Karoo does not. The reader knows with certainty that Something Very Bad Will Happen, but I didn’t guess the way it finally unfolded. The story has deceptive bends in it. Just as well because the overall tone is of Karoo’s own misery, and the misery is piled on and on. In fact, about the only thing Karoo isn’t into is cocaine, heroin. He [and we] are spared that.
Is it well written: yes, but as other Amazon reviewers have said, some passages are overdone, take too long, follow a circuitous route where a direct line would improve things and make it a 330 pager not 406. Likewise, some of the characters that other reviewers have described as 2D or undeveloped could have been better described.
But, if you like ‘Rake’ on Netflix [=brilliant Australian criminal barrister but whose every human relationship goes to sh*t because of who he is] then Karoo is for you, too.
Should you read it? Oh God yeah.
I heard about this book when it was being reviewed on Radio 4 one evening and they were singing its praises. I absolutely loved it - it was so different to any other book I had read before and I thought it was really cleverly written and SteveTesich clearly had an amazing imagination. But, I got to the end and - what the hell was that about? I am not educated about Greek mythology or whatever and the whole of the last bit, I supposed, assumed that the reader was. So what about the rest of us? If they were using an analogy or something, how would I know what it was meant to tell us?. It was completely and utterly wasted on me and I felt that Steve Tesich had been disloyal to readers like me who had bought it and worked their way through - really looking forward to the end. Two other thumbs down - so many annoying spellos. I'm not the spello police but if you're lost in a story, a spello takes you right back to remembering that it's only a book and I felt irritated. Also, whilst the whole book was full of clever twists and turns, there was a really obvious twist that I cannot believe Karoo didn't know was happening. It just didn't add up that this cynical old hack wouldn't have got that one. So Steve Tesich this could have been such an amazingly wonderful book but it wasn't. for me. I seem to be out on a limb here though.