Book Chat 30 Tyler Knox/Kockroach
Robin S. said...I'm here. Kockroach in hand.
Dave F. said...Once again I assemble my bug spray, itch powder and fly swatter. The only worse thing than a bug crawling on me is poison ivy. and after all that, Hi y'all. Hope you had your coffee this morning.
sylvia said...From a review: "Either Tyler Knox has grand ambitions for his first novel or he’s trying to make a silly joke."
Evil Editor said...If that was a bad review, it was one of very few.
sylvia said...The review is more petulant than bad, I'd say:
WhatzUp - Leisure Time Weekly for Northeast Indiana
"Whatever the reason, Kockroach is based on a premise that, if it’s a joke, it has an immediately obvious punchline which evokes laughter that dies out pretty quickly. In Kockroach an insect wakes one morning to find that he has been mysteriously tranformed into a human. This is, of course, an inversion of Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, in which a man wakes one morning to discover that he has been changed into an insect. I suspect that Knox wanted his book to be half-serious – playful with a touch of wisdom – and that it is, although it has little to do with Kafka’s book beyond the opening scene, Knox’s novel makes space for itself and becomes, if one can overlook some serious flaws, a lighthearted entertainment."
Evil Editor said...Leisure Time Weekly for Northeast Indiana? Had to dig awfully deep to find a bad review, eh? The reviews excerpted at Kockroach.com are from better-known sources. The author's site also has a section of discussion questions, which might be better read before reading the book, although the book might be less fun if you're actually thinking about it.
sylvia said...I live in fear of getting a novel published and being asked to create sensible discussion questions.
Robin S. said...He has discussion questions? Really? He has his own book club stuff ready? Hmmm. Sounds like a good idea. I never thought to check - I just read the stuff in the back of the book. It seems this novel and the ancillary helpfulness re the reader's invitation to partake in discussion - seems a little contrived. But maybe that's what's expected to work now? I didn't need to know he liked Metamorphosis as a kid - figured that out from the reversal of metamorphosizing.
Dave F. said...I liked the book, sort of. It's not going to be one of my all time favorites but I did enjoy it.
sylvia said...I'm not a big noir fan and the premise was a bit odd, so I expected to not like it and possibly not finish it. But in the end, I read it very quickly. It's interesting and fun with some interesting intellectual questions. I love how the cockroach morality plays out throughout the storyline.
Dave F. said...KOCKROACH is commentary on businessmen and politicians. It seems to say that criminals have more morals than roaches and businessmen and politicians are less moral than the lowly, squishy roach.
DCP said...I thought it was really good ut then kind of dropped off after the whole abogados showdown....
Evil Editor said...I thought it worked well as a story and moralistically, with the cockroach's ways helping him rise to the top of the crime world and then the top of the business world.
Robin S. said...I can absolutley see where the cockroach behavior pattern works well in the fight to the top of supposedly high-fallutin places.
Dave F. said...I kinda thought it was the modern version of Orwell's Animal Farm making fun of modern society and its morals. The one thing I felt cheated on is the allusion to Richard Nixon waving the "V" sign. Now that was low and cheap humor.
sylvia said...That's how I took it - the roach morals were basic and focused on survival. His actions were nevertheless better than the others, or at least, less harmful.
Robin S. said...I 'get' the point and the premise and the underyling moral of the story, as it were. It's well-written, but I feel I've been spoon fed information and 'what I should take away' rather than simply being handed a narrative to read and deriving meaning on my own. I don't love that attitude in writing. Also, the review quote on the back of my copy irritated me - 'portrait of the cockroach as a young human' - as though anyone now living could step into Joyce's shoes. Are you fucking kidding me?
Evil Editor said...I'm sure the author didn't choose which quote to put on the back cover.
sylvia said...Problems I had: I didn't really understand why Kockroach took the first prostitute to abandon her to the docks. I mean, I understand that she was drugged out but she wasn't really doing any harm and it didn't seem in character for him. What did he care if she just hung around?
Dave F. said...Sylvia, Wasn't it that roaches are cannibals and also have no fathering skills whatsoever. I don't think KOCKROACH is capable of love in the way we think of it -- he understands trophy wives as a means to power but he doesn't understand a white picket fence and two kids.
stacy said...He sounds kind of like a sociopath.
Evil Editor said...Survival and greed are the only motivations of a cockroach. Kockroach survives and rises. His survival of the explosion reminds me of how they say when nuclear war destroys the planet, only cockroaches will survive.
sylvia said...The other characters definitely see him as a sociopath. But we get the cockroach morals/logic explained to us and thus his actions end up making a lot of sense. He gets that "green paper" makes a big impression and allows people to get what they want, so with his cockroachy acquisitive nature, he focuses on getting as much as he can, so that he can take care of himself and all the cockroaches in the world.
Robin S. said...I'd say he IS a sociopath, Stace - I think you're on the money. But I think part of the point is what (forgive the repetitive word here) Dave pointed out - I also have had bosses who are pointlessly cruel or just personalities-in-absentia, and taking everyone along on their suck-ass gravy train. I think that's a realistic way of looking at SO many people, especially those who have, by their roles, have the capacity in some form or fashion to control others.
sylvia said...I agree and that was a Celia problem. But the initial girl didn't want more than she had and I just didn't really grasp why he forced her to work the docks. It seemed vindictive without cause. A totally minor point but it bugged me because I didn't get it.
Evil Editor said...He knew she would never go home and get straight like she kept saying. At least he didn't have her killed like the wife of the young handsome mobster on the Sopranos. That's how the mob handles it when you reflect badly on them or you can't be trusted not to screw them.
Dave F. said...Oh Sylvia, I've worked for a few butt-kissing weasels whose sole philosophy was exemplified by "It seemed vindictive without cause." I kept comparing this guy to old bosses.
sylvia said...Dave: businessmen, yes. I didn't see it as in character for a cockroach though.
DTP said...I started off liking Kockroach, and not liking mite, but then that reversed for me, and Kockroach seemed to become more a villain...
sylvia said...My sympathies shifted around a few times. I thought they did a good job of no good guys/bad guys. Though I was disappointed in Celia in the end.
Dave F. said...One thing I really would like to know -- in the Buddhist sense of reincarnation and karma -- what did this guy do to be reincarnated into a roach's body and what did the roach do that made it possible for "it" to be incarnated into a human body? Or is this like JOB and a bet between God and Satan?
sylvia said...Regarding Karma, I did really hope throughout that there would be some sort of explanation as to why he morphed into a human. But I wasn't really surprised when there wasn't (and I suspect it would have been difficult to come up with any sort of reasoning that didn't sound silly)
Evil Editor said...Is there an explanation of why the man becomes a bug in Kafka's book?
Dave F. said...Kafka didn't explain the act that got his character to "become an odious insect" but we can well imagine what tedious and inconsequential act could get a paranoid like Kafka to feel ostracized from society.
Robin S. said...Kafka's father was cold and emotionally cruel to him -I remember reading that in a biography note - and in a note where excerpts from his letters to his father explained so much about his outlook on life, and re himself. As for bug-human stuff, I kept thinking about Dave Matthews' excellent song, Ants Marching. I think about that a lot, driving into DC 5 days a week. It applies.
sylvia said...In Kafka, I think the point was that it was a bad man. In Kockroach, I didn't get the impression that Kockroach was a particularly good or evil bug or that it would even matter. So you couldn't really parallel the causes of the metamorphasis.
sylvia said...I found the romance a bit more difficult to grasp but I still liked it. And loved the betrayal / fire scene / escape sequence.
DCP said...Did everyone that was part of his 'family' in the end have some abnormality...liek celiea with the leg, the lawyer with the stutter, the boxer with a scarred face, and was his new wife blind?? This leave out mite.
sylvia said...I didn't actually notice that but you are right!
DCP said...I wasn't sure about the blind thing, and maybe mite was super short, and then maybe that is why he rejected sylvie...?
Dave F. said...Now let me play devil's advocate...what if this really is a joke on the establishment writer? The reversal of a much "beloved" short story that teachers and professors inflict on all students. Did Knox spoof the intellectuals and write a biting satire making powerful men look like insects?
stacy said...But I thought those men already looked like insects to intellectuals. Steve Jobs notwithstanding. ; )
Robin S. said...By the way, there were some scenes, or reflections, that I truly enjoyed - page 340 in my copy - for instance - the mother-daughter death truths were spot on and well done. And on page 170 - feer and greed as cockroach toggle feelings - and how fear also drives so much in humans. So very true - even when we rationalize away the fears and come up with something more acceptable to ourselves. In reality, I could see a morphed bug doing well in our society - free of any Judeo-Christian guilt traps - they could survive thrive and conquer. Hence the tale, I suppose.
Dave F. said...BTW - did anyone laugh out loud at parts of this book or am I the odd person out again?
Evil Editor said...I don't know if I laughed out loud, but I thought the mix of humor and noir was well done. I'll probably read this again some day.
Robin S. said...What parts made you laugh, Dave - or was it just in general? I'm trying to remember if I grinned while reading...
Dave F. said...What made me laugh? The comparisons to culture-- the send up of THE GODFATHER where a single lone survivor crawls out of the betrayal to take revenge from teh sidelines, very Godfatherish. The Nixon send up. Mite's return after betrayal, like the Prodigal Son in the Bible. The two wives (sort of wives) and lack of love in sex.
sylvia said...The discussion questions ask why the time period/location was chosen (Answer: I have no idea!)
stacy said...I wonder if Knox chose that time period because of its outward shell of stability, and yet it was such a paranoid time.
Evil Editor said...He needed a time of corruption and crime, and the McCarthy hearings were going on. I tend to think of noir as forties rather than fifties, so I was surprised to find it was the 50's.
Dave F. said...I'll ask the question that Knox asks: Does this, the Great American Dream of the Rugged Individualist clawing his way to the top of the economic heap through the glories of capitalism, compare to a heap of roaches in a sewer? Could this become a paradigm shift in the way we look at business?
Evil Editor said...That IS the way we look at business nowadays.
sylvia said...This book surprised me because I thought it was going to be a struggle to get through and it really wasn't. I liked the way Kockroach reacted when confronted with Mite's moral views, with a simple reaction of "Why would you think that way?" The book was very moralistic but not in a patronising/condenscending way. It was not kind to women but then that fit with the setting and the bugginess and the type of character.
Robin S. said...Sorry if my comments are disjointed -but I'm looking at the pages I marked. I'd forgotten how much I liked pages 78-79. His contemplation of mating rituals. I liked the honesty of it - again, the thing with humans is, they mask raw want and need with rationale and quasi-emotion seems to me to be the point. I did like that refreshing way of looking at this.
Evil Editor said...Refreshing and more readable to have those ideas coming from a cockroach than from a psychologist.
Dave F. said...I enjoyed the book. It entertained me and I think it will entertain some others who depend on me to spend my hard earned money and feed them second-hand books. I think it's very satiric in a wicked, literate way and also, it's a send up of literary novels themselves. It's a tweak on the nose to intellectuals. And I think he did a good job of it.
Robin S. said...I don't see this as lit fic, though. Not that I'm against the genre-as-lit-fic thing at all. I've read several mysteries that were astounding in their right portrayal of the human condition. I just don't think this one qualifies. Or maybe I just hate bugs. There's that. I agree that what passes for literary fiction now is often navel-gazing grandiosity-claiming silly stuff. So if he can send THAT up and outta here, I'm all for that.
Evil Editor said...Filled with observations about human relationships . . . . a study of human society from a unique perspective.--LIBRARY JOURNAL That makes it sound like litfic, but the style is pure genre. It's a combo.
Evil Editor said...Is it totally inconceivable that some of our politicians and businessmen were once cockroaches?
Robin S. said...not inconceivable at all.
Dave F. said...I don't know about insects, EE, but I do believe that anus is the operative word. Especially for talk radio hosts and former governors.
stacy said...Jesus. I'm going to be watching the news in a whole new way.