Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Dark Diversions by John Ralston Saul

Dark DiversionsIn Dark Diversions acclaimed author John Ralston Saul stages a black comedy of international proportions that takes the reader from New York to Paris to Morocco to Haiti in the 1980s and 1990s. When he’s not encountering dictators in Third World hot spots, Saul’s narrator moves in privileged circles on both sides of the Atlantic, insinuating himself into the lives of well-to-do aristocrats. Through his exploits we experience a fascinating world of secret lovers, exiled princesses, death by veganism, and religious heresies. The emotional fireworks of these inhabitants of the First World are sharply juxtaposed with the political infighting of the dictators and the corruption, double-dealing, and fawning that attend them. But as he becomes further enmeshed in these worlds, his outsider status grows more ambiguous: Is he a documentarian of privileged foibles and fundamental inequity, or an embodiment of the very “dark diversions” he chronicles?

I think the marketing for this book is not as efficient as it could be. If you look it up on Goodreads or Amazon, the blurbs all make it seem as if this is one complete novel, when in fact it would have served the book better to publicize it as a collection of interconnected stories with the same protagonist in all of them.

Since I was expecting a coherent story, beginning, middle, and end, the first half of the book was in parts amusing and boring, since nothing really fit together. If I’d known they were all separate stories, maybe I would have read it more like a short story collection. It just felt incredibly disjointed to me. The writing itself is good and the characterizations for the most part are handled well, but the reader is left feeling with a hollowness while we are reading it which, at least, for me, does not make it one that I can recommend to other people. If taken by themselves a few of these chapters, or stories, are quite interesting, but as a whole, the book disappointed. It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t anything I’ll remember after a couple of months, either.

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