Friday, October 16, 2009

God Hates Us All

Like most 17-year-olds, I had an extremely dramatic emotional life, and my best friend, Iris, could always restore perspective and make me laugh by intoning solemnly "Jeanne, God hates you." This was years before Slayer's 2001 album and the new novel by a fictional character (Hank Moody of the TV show Californication), both titled God Hates Us All. So when I saw the novel, I had to pick it up and start reading through it.

At first, it seemed to be about someone who isn't much more than 17. Hank's parents from Levittown want him to get a job, but he goes on a road trip with his crazy girlfriend. After she flips out and stabs him on the side of a highway, he falls into selling baggies of weed in New York City and meets all sorts of people living life on the edge. He doesn't shy away from seedy characters or hotels. As ReadersGuide recently pointed out, any coming of age story reminds us of Catcher in the Rye, and this one is no exception.

But then I found out that the actor who plays Moody is ever so much more than 17, and the narrator of the novel claims to be 21. At this point, the blurb on the back of the book started seeming even more exaggerated ("a wry literary masterpiece.... a coming-of-age tale....ironic, optimistic, and unforgettable"). What's optimistic about a novel where the narrator can't hold onto a girlfriend or even keep his job as a drug dealer, and who has to watch his mother die? What's ironic about living for the moment and never looking ahead, other than that it's already been done in the movies (his favorite is Sid and Nancy) and in the sixties with less potent drugs?

Maybe habitual TV-watchers would find the dialogue entertaining, like when Hank goes looking for a party in a seedy hotel and meets a model who says there's no party
"but you're coherent enough to have a drink with me, aren't you?"
"Sure," I say. "I pride myself on my coherence."

There's little or no logic in what happens to Hank. Although he has no sense of shame about trying to get into bed with any woman he meets (his female best friend, who offers, is an exception), he remembers that at the college he dropped out of they called the walk home in last night's clothes "the walk of shame." But even when Hank examines his motives, his thoughts go nowhere. When he rejects his best friend's sexual advance he begins to explain:
"Sex for me is..."
I stop. I don't have any idea how to finish the sentence. What does sex mean to me? Why don't I want to have it with Tana?
But that's as far as he gets.

The title line is spoken in Spanish by a bartender in a Mexican restaurant ("Dios nos odia todos"), and then translated by Hank to his on-again, off-again girlfriend, which makes it seem deep, at least while they're getting drunk. If you want to read a novel while drunk or high, this one might be a good one to try. Maybe it would be easier to just turn on the TV, though; it wouldn't be any more of a waste of time!

What have you wasted your time on lately? Did you regret it afterwards, like I did, reading this novel?


FreshHell said...

I waste time worrying about potential outcomes that don't actually happen.

That book sounds awful. I no longer waste time reading bad books. I close them and move on.

kittiesx3 said...

I'm not much of a movie watcher; I'd far rather read the book. But I did watch The Watchmen a couple of weeks ago and I want my 162 minutes back.

The movie couldn't decide if it was action, or splatter, or moralistic sermon, or--well I don't know what. The dialogue was retarded, almost all the acting was utterly wretched and I really didn't give a rat's ass about any of the characters.

Oh and for pity's sake, if you are going to set your movie in an alternate version of 1985, don't use mostly 60s-era protest music. It would have at least been ironic to use something like Girls Just Wanna Have Fun instead.

Readersguide said...

Jeanne, this sounds dreadful. When I waste my time (I read one of those terrible books about Elizabeth Bennett after she marries Mr. Darcy a few years ago -- that was a waste of time) I like it to be at least entertaining, although in an unwholesome way. This just sounds annoying.

Jodie said...

I sometimes find myself watching ten minutes of that show (because DD is still my odd idea of gorgeous) but it depresses me and I can not make it through a whole episode (although his little goth daughter is very cool).

Well there was that horrible D'Ancona book I read recently, but I'd probably say watching the new Around the World in Eighty Days (the bits with celebrities talking about being on a train or a boat, not the bits where they explain why Children in Need is so worthwhile) was a bust.

Jeanne said...

FreshHell, who doesn't waste time worrying, except my brother, who I think is a big pretender.
Elizabeth, I am a movie watcher, but I'll give Watchmen a pass (even though one of my daughter's friends gave her the DVD in August as a birthday present).
ReadersGuide, I do like a good Austen fanfic every once in a while. But you're right, this wasn't good escapism.
Jodie, DD is worth looking at for a few minutes, but from what I've read, his dialogue would pall after about 10 minutes, as you say.
Thanks for the warnings on the D'Ancona and Around the World in 80 Days!

kittiesx3 said...

Oh hey I've been meaning to thank you for calling me Elizabeth. I haven't been Liz in decades and so when someone from the past actually picks up that I don't use that name anymore, well it's nice :-) My ear really doesn't hear Liz as me, and in fact my husband finally asked me if I really had been a Liz at one point. He said that name just didn't fit me. So thank you.

Jeanne said...

Elizabeth, you never much struck me as a Liz, although the one syllable with your one syllable maiden name was nice. As someone who's always gone by her middle name and appreciated it when someone could pronounce the French spelling (it's one syllable, not Jean-nie or Jo-anne), I try to be sensitive to what people call themselves. But sometimes it gets hard when I have four Kates in one class and five Joshes in the other!

Care said...

Your story about Iris restoring perspective reminds me of a particularly bad experience in college when I just knew I flunked my stats final. I was whining and bemoaning the hit to my gpa, when my companion simply advised me to "Go climb to the top of Anderson Hall and jump." WHAT!?
I thank her to this day.