The Teleportation Accident

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Do you ever read a book that makes you feel stupid? And, because of how stupid that book makes you feel (and I don’t like to feel that way), some cataclysmic barrier is laid down between you and the author when you should otherwise be enjoying yourself? Well, after having a surprisingly good run of comfortable reads, that is how Ned Beauman’s perplexing novel The Teleportation Accident made me feel.

Although I’m bracing myself for people who strongly disagree by saying this – the wide-range and careful balance of works habitually nominated for the Man Booker Prize every year never ceases to amaze me. Having several of the nominees for the 2012 prize either already read or TBR on my bookshelf, none of them could really prepare me for a novel that excited me at the first and baffled me at the last.

The first of many set-pieces we begin with is pre-WWII Berlin (always intriguing), where we are introduced to set-designer Egon Loeser (or Egon ‘Loser’ as I preferred to call him). Egon is a selfish, egotistical, flippant, sex-obsessed waster, completely separated from and unconcerned by what is happening in 1930s Europe and eventually crossing the globe to America, not, as you may assume, to escape Nazi persecution but to chase a girl who, let’s face it, is never going to have sex with him in a month of Sundays. This farcical tale takes us from a beleaguered Berlin, to fashionable Paris and finally to a bleached LA, where Beauman’s plot line (or lack thereof) takes off and we are introduced to some fabulously eccentric and memorable characters (e.g. rich tycoon Wilbur Gorge who suffers from agnosia; distorting his sense of reality and resulting in several slapstick moments). However, aside from isolated scenes and amusements that appear to be clear satirical takes on various literary genres, I found this deliberately disjointed tale left me feeling a little high and dry; stranded on a huge floating thesaurus along with Adriano Lavicini; the 17th century Venetian set-designer whose teleportation device seems to be the main tenuous thread, along with Loeser’s pursuit of sexual intercourse, holding this story together.

Two essential problems I can pinpoint and explain why I’m simply not on Ned Beauman’s 121.Ned Beauman-The Teleportation Accidentwavelength (i.e. ultrasonic) are the below:

1. I have to like my main character, even in some minute way. Egon Loeser has been deliberately constructed to be a bit of a loser and I therefore couldn’t muster an ounce of sympathy for him, finding the (again deliberate, and really quite brave) disregard for the plight of friends back home to be, at first intriguing but then, once repeated, a little insulting.

2. I like a good plot. Unless the writing is of a McEwan/Atwood/Murakami-style brilliance, I cannot get my head around all the toing and froing. Beauman is undoubtedly talented but I found that after a few chapters my head really did start to hurt, which in turn made me feel stupid, which I am not. (Also – I am sure this was deliberate again but, did partygoers really take ketamine in 1930s Berlin. Am I missing some wry joke there?)

I think this novel, as many of my book club‘s choices have been in the past, is one whose madcap, baffling storyline and really very accomplished prose you simply have to go along with. If, like me, you start trying to analyse and understand any of it you will fail miserably and come away feeling like a fool. I feel very confused and bewildered and have no idea what to think. Most people love this book (clearly Man-Booker worthy) and do we always have to like our main characters? I do. But then again I’m a fusspot.

If you do decide to pick this up one day my main advice would be: RELAX. Go with the flow, man. Because I clearly can’t.

Venice canals by Erick Gonzalez via Flickr

5 thoughts on “The Teleportation Accident

  1. Hi, I really like your honest post. I especially love your reference to how books can make your feel stupid – for me, thats a really good reason to not finish the book. I also love the photo – regardless of how bad the book was. Now, the other reason I’m visiting your blog is to remind you, it’s time for Paris in July – over at Bookbath or Thyme-for-tea. We’d love to see you again!

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    1. I am THERE Tamara and can’t wait! I am always, and will always be up for anything Paris related. I can’t for everyone’s posts, they’re always such a hoot and I always find I make some great discoveries every year.
      Am reading David Mitchell now, and feel enlightened yet distinctly less stupid! Which is always nice…

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  2. I read Beauman’s first book because his surname is the same as mine but spelled differently (!) and I guess from your review of The Teleportation Accident that they’re quite similar. His first, Boxer Beetle, has flashes of brilliance but seems get lost up its arse at times. But then again, you mention Murakami in your article, and it took me a few of his novels before I really got them. Beauman’s only on his second so maybe in the future it will click for him and readers and he’ll be another great stylist with wild rambling plots. Here’s hoping!

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    1. Ha. I think that might possibly be the best reason to read a novel I’ve ever heard 😀 I think this guy (who am I to say this BUT) really has promise. He’s clearly very smart and has a fabulous, unique imagination but, perhaps his writing/plots just hasn’t attained the natural elegance of the big boys. But is it fair to compare him to the big boys? Maybe it;s flattering I’m trying to!

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