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Starbook based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
At a few points, for maybe thirty or forty pages at a time, Okri's narrative gathers speed and escapes his overdone myth-making and oracular wisdom in favor of genuine story-telling. These reprieves, in concert with my high regard for Ben Okri, are the only reason I was willing to consume the repetitive lessons that constitute this predictable "legend."I recognize that my criticisms of this book only prove that I have not fully absorbed the ideals that it was composed to elevate and that it is a well-intentioned, gentle fiction rejoicing in the triumph of patience, silence, humility, truth and self-sacrifice. But there are ideals in writing as well; and it is not forgivable to tell 80% of your stories from a telescopic remove--as if you have so much to say, that all you can do is summarize the events that have the most pedagogical value.Sadly, the book lacks grit or any memorable portrayals of the ground-level people in whose honor it was composed. I can't help holding it to the standard set by Okri¿s, "The Famished Road," in which succinct and purposeful departures into legend and magic are contrasted harmoniously with memorable details of poverty and African existence."Starbook" sorely needs an anchor, whether in a character that behaves like a real human or in a place that could be inhabited. Instead, the story hovers in an ambiguous place and time: the golden, untouched, natural and spirit-filled Africa that has been written to death in so many works from the continent. This far too convenient and gutless backdrop is populated with characters that live for hundreds of years, characters who are initiated into cosmic brotherhoods or sisterhoods of ultimate wisdom, ultimately, characters who are erased by their duty to represent particular nodes of Okri's belief system. Is it not obvious that forcing yourself to narrate a story almost entirely about semi-deities with absolute wisdom and knowledge is a trap? Around these monochromatic and unsympathetic super-beings, all Okri can do is scatter evidence of their perceptiveness and unexceptional samples of their wisdom--tiny fables and truisms with little merit. The antagonists are as burdensome as the purity they attempt to destroy. Choose between a council of self-serving elders that scheme against a blameless and fragile prince, a selfish warrior blinded by pride and acquisitiveness and a crudely metaphorical representation of Western Culture's ugly assault on the African people. Oh, and give up on the idea of being propelled by any desire for resolution; from the very beginning, Okri is addicted to obvious prophecies that hold forth empty promises of narrative tension and a grueling account of suffering in the real world. The book never gets down to business; it just spoils its own surprises again and again in an accidental indictment of an omniscience that can't hold its tongue.
This is magical realism minus the realism--which gets cloying pretty quickly. I think that on the macrolevel, it's way too long for Okri to be able to carry out his stylistic experiment. Which is not to say that it doesn't succeed on the microlevel--in fact, I probably bookmarked every few pages for some lovely quote or insightful thought. But there are plenty of meaningless sentences, and the deliberately simplistic philosophy behind this basically New Age novel, well, it doesn't do it for me. I can say that I have about a thousand things to say for and against this novel, so the fruitful thought that has resulted from my reading this book makes up for some of its deficiencies. Newcomers to Ben Okri: I recommend reading his truly fabulous The Famished Road instead.