Any book in which the two main characters often seem to converse by drawing willies is always likely to find a place in my heart. And this did not fail to, although perhaps I was not as fond of it as some.
The good points. The characters are well crafted, realistic and honestly drawn. Their foibles are the same as all of ours, regardless of their austere professions and indulgent rantings. I defy anyone not to be in stitches as W continually berates Lars, but also touched by their genuine friendship that seems to know no dishonesty, which is perhaps a rare thing. W's often acerbic wit, whilst it might be cutting, does not seem to be made with a genuine intention to upset or undermine Lars. His remarks are nearly always followed up with a slight against himself, although he is always, of course, marginally superior in every way.
The only story that this book could be said to have is in regard of the spread of the truly horrific damp in Lars' house. But this is not so much a plot, more a metaphor. It spreads malignantly throughout the book and, towards the end, on every page. I read it as a metaphor for the underlying state of Lars' life as it spreads, unhindered and undiagnosed, through his house as it does through his life. To me, and perhaps I am wrong, W's concern was expressed in the only way he could, through his acerbic wit. But it was still genuine and still very touching.
Yet this book, although marginally the best in the Not the Booker, to me had some major drawbacks. I found it a little difficult to read. It is short, not running to more than 200 pages I don't think. Yet it took me a week to read. I found that I struggled to read more than 20 pages at a time. Each sitting was at the most 20 minutes, before I’d start reading a non-fiction book which I was reading concurrently. I didn't find that it hooked me. Perhaps that is the lack of a plot to carry me through. However, I think that it is mostly because, I believe, this was initially a blog written by the author. And it shows. No 'chapter' is more than 8, maybe 10 pages long. It is very episodic and very repetitive so that you don't feel like you are getting anywhere. Occasionally, one chapter will seems to be told again in the very next chapter, using different words. In fact one might say that nothing happens: nobody comes and nobody goes. But perhaps that shows its fidelity to actual life, rather than to imagined life.
Whilst I personally think that this is a fair criticism, others might point out that this is not a story. This is a portrait of two people and, in particular, of their friendship. And as just that, as a portrait, it is very touching indeed.
Anthony Dickinson, Not the Booker review