Wanted: A Canvas for Words.

Good to be God

by Tibor Fischer
Publisher: Alma Books
Release Date: 28th August 08
Review: Mike

"When you think they're all laughing at you, you're in serious trouble. Because either they are all laughing at you, or you're going mad."

Tyndale Corbett is a professional failure. Things have got to change and when he finds himself in Miami under an assumed identity he hatches his plan.

He will pretend to be a new man.

He will be God.

"Religion never has to deliver, it only has to promise to deliver."

Good to be God is a strange fish. I wanted to love it. I really did. It's a good book, but ... damn it, I'm going to take some advice from the book:

"Politeness is what happens when you're figuring out people's value."

Okay there is value to giving a glowing account of this book, it would stand the magazine in good stead with Alma Books. I like Alma Books they publish Tom McCarthy. They have given away prizes here. But in the end the value of a magazine that gives honest reviews is higher. So I will switch of my polite filter and be honest. In a constructive way you understand.

"I think I was right; but I've noticed that being right doesn't do you much good. Being right doesn't improve the quality of your life."

There you go. There is an example of what is good with the book and what is bad. The book is stuffed full of witty clever asides. Here's another one:

"One of the great shortcomings of life is the lack of captions, that there is no punctuation, no musical sting to warn you when something important is happening."

But the problem is the story. It felt that the story was a bit embarrassed by itself - O let's get that bit over quickly shall we - and there is no literary prose to hide that. Just the clever - and they are very clever - comments on life. But that's not enough. There was no emotional involvement. I enjoyed reading it, but I didn't care. I'd rather have them condensed into a small book which I can leave in the loo for people to read.

So there we go - an author that has bucket loads of insights into human behaviour struggling to find a canvas to paint on.

You know what? I'm going to read his first novel, Under the Frog. I have a sneaking suspicion that I may adjust my view of Tibor after that.


Tibor Fischer was born in Stockport, England in 1959 to Hungarian parents, both professional basketball players who had left Hungary in 1956. He grew up in south London before going to Cambridge University to study Latin and French. He has worked as a journalist and was selected as one of the 20 'Best of Young British Novelists 2' by Granta magazine in 1993.

His first novel, Under the Frog (1992), which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction, tells the story of a Hungarian basketball player, Gyuri Fischer, dreaming of escape to the West while on a tour in 1950s Hungary.


Jane Turley said...

Hmm.. Good to be God sounds a bit like Bruce Almighty, the film starring Jim Carey - but without the laughs. Pretending to be God is an extreme idea though unless you have hatched the most fantastic plot. Maybe if the character had just pretended to be a doctor he would have been more engaging; we could all have envisionaged that scenario... Who hasn't at some point fantasized about living a different life? But becoming God?? That's a tricky one....

kathleenmaher said...

His first novel sounds interesting, Mike. You were smart to include it; otherwise I would wonder about such an audacious idea. It would require such meticulous plotting, a specific atmosphere, and an intensely "human" and contradictory character. And contradictory characters, true as they might be to real life, are devilishly difficult to pull off in fiction. (I've learned I can't do it, anyway.)
Hurray for your honestly. Hurray, too, for Fischer. I always admire a noble failure, even if, as in this case, I probably won't read the book unless the Lone Ranger drops it in my lap. And even then, I'd hone in on the aphorisms.

Vic said...

The first novel was good but I don't think he's done better than 'The thought gang' - one of my favourite books of all time.