Saturday, October 29, 2011

Completed: Seeing

Dear Kelly,

This month, my TBR book was really a two-fer because I reread Blindness before tackling its "sequel."

The experience of rereading Blindness
This book still had the power to shock and horrify me. I remembered the basic plot pretty clearly: The book starts with a man at a stoplight. He suddenly loses his vision and everything is blinding white. Like dominoes, the other people he comes in contact with also become blind. Only the Doctor's Wife continues to see, but she pretends to be blind to stay with her husband. The first group of blind people are taken away to a mental hospital and quarantined, and most of the novel follows them in this miserable hellhole. I vaguely remembered that none of the characters are given names. Although I did forget just how many people ban together under the care of the Doctor's Wife. I was surprised by the WALL OF TEXT, long pages without any paragraph breaks and very little punctuation. I had completely forgotten.

Basically, I was reading at half-cringe the entire time. I just was waiting for the "we'll trade you some food for your women" scene. Which, by the way, was worse than I had remembered. A lot worse than I remembered.

I felt a little battered having read it again, but in a weird way, I was happy about it. It's nice to see that my reading memory isn't as completely useless as I thought. One thing that surprised me is how bleak the ending is, despite the fact that they escape from the mental hospital and eventually regain their sight. I remembered that there was some sort of redeeming moment, where the Doctor's Wife was in a church. But this time around, it just felt like a damning indictment of humanity. We are all stumbling around blind, being awful to each other, and there's not much to be done about it.

On that cheery note, I moved on to the sequel.

This is, perhaps, the worst book I have ever read. And I don't mean "worst" because it was upsetting. I mean because it sucked. The action takes place in the same nameless country of blindness. On election day, the citizens mysteriously avoid the polling places all day, until, like zombies, they start to appear to vote at around 4pm. However, when the votes are counted, 80% of them are blank. From there and for the next 180 pages, the government freaks out, reacts, overreacts, etc. THERE ARE NO CHARACTERS. Just the shadowy "government" trying to find somewhere to pin the blame.

Remember back in senior year when we read some absurdist or surrealist novella (The Metamorphosis, perhaps)? And one of our assignments was to write an absurdist piece of our own? Well, that's how this book read: like it was churned out, overnight, as a half-assed response to a ridiculous assignment from an English teacher. "Imagine a scenario where the government acts in a totally absurd fashion," the English teacher trilled, "and make sure there are no characters, and no names, and no paragraph breaks! Tra-la-la!"

Kelly, if it wasn't for the fact that I didn't want to start another book, I would have dumped this sucker 20 pages in. As it is, I skimmed---and I mean skimmed, motherfucker---until about page 180. It is there that some semblance of plot revealed itself. The First Man to go Blind writes a letter to the government revealing that the Doctor's Wife never went blind, and he suggest that she may be responsible for the blank votes. It turns out that he and his wife have divorced and he's holding a grudge against the Doctor's Wife. Why, you may ask? Because the asshole can't get over the fact that his wife slept with other men when they were blind. That is, that his wife was gang-raped in exchange for food while they were blind. What a twat-waffle.

Anyways, it really all goes downhill from there. The police superintendent investigates the matter (he does think the First Man to go Blind is a jerk, and points out to him that he did eat the food she brought back, so maybe he shouldn't be such an ass). He quickly determines that the Doctor's Wife is innocent and refuses to frame her for the blank votes. In the end, both he and the Doctor's Wife are assassinated by the government.

This book was just awful. The thing about Blindness was that it was so shocking and terrifying; I was immediately swept up in the agony of these characters. In Seeing, the central problem was just a total yawn. People cast blank votes! I mean really, who cares? In the end, it is even more bleak, but at the same time, the theme is so apparent it was like getting hit in the face with a 2x4. The government is WILLFULLY blind---get it? They killed the only people who could see. Get it? Get it? The ending is, quite literally, overkill.

All in all, a depressing month in TBR-land,

PS I realize this review is full of profanity. It's a reflection of my sheer annoyance with Seeing. I do apologize. 


  1. WOW. What a major disappointment! How were the reviews of Seeing? Have others hated it to the same degree?

    I have the same memory experience that you do of Blindness. I think I mentioned this in a comment a few weeks ago -- I loaned that book to Judy when she was out here one time and I was surprised by the wall-of-words. Did not remember that! (Didn't remember that the characters didn't have names either, actually...)

    Didn't the First Man to Go Blind (this is the Doctor, right?) actually sleep with someone *else* in Blindness? His wife sees the two of them on the cot together. Right? But she forgives him instantly? Because... well... desperate times call for desperate measures or something. Or am I not remembering that correctly? Because that's some bullshit right there if that's true.

    Bummer of a book month for ya, there. Hope you're reading something really great in November!

  2. The Doctor does sleep with someone else and the Wife forgives him. Yeah, I had completely forgotten that. Agreed it was bullshit. But, The First Man to go Blind was actually the driver of the car. And then a good samaritan helps him home and steals the car. He's a semi-jerk in Blindness, but it seemed sort of an unbelievable turn in the 2nd one when he turns on the Doctor's Wife-----this is the woman who saved him!

    I'm a little afraid to pick my next book, actually....

  3. Ah. I see. Sooo... The First Man to go Blind divorced his *own* wife (I thought it was the Doctor and the Doctor's Wife who got divorced) because he couldn't deal with her rape. And then... he hates the Doctor's Wife because... wait... why now?

  4. Exactly! It makes no sense! What a disappointment!