I’m not sure that life on an American university campus can ever be described as real life, but that is the expectation of Wallace, when he realises a life long ambition to complete a Biochemistry degree, researching all sorts of scientific stuff that I didn’t try to understand (don’t judge me).
Frankly, I started reading this one and didn’t get on with it. It’s all microscopic worms (which I care very little for) and a lot of detail about extracting various components of said worms – and the details of an experiment which he is convinced has been sabotaged by someone in his lab.
From the outset, we see Wallace as an outsider. He is unsure of himself, eager to please, lacking in a personality that might earn him the respect and adultation from the group of friends who he seems to be tied to. A group of friends, I might add, who in the main, I disliked instensely. I’m not even sure if I liked Wallace very much – his lack of backbone was galling and frustrating. He’d been at this uni for four years already, and yet he doesn’t seem to be any more confident than a newcomer.
So why, I hear you ask, are you writing this book up, seeing as you only talk about books you like.
Because the thing that sets this book apart is the writing. It has a clarity and a voice that I haven’t experienced in a long time. One of the key elements is the way it portrays systemic and institutional racism and there is one particular scene which took my breathe away, with it’s nasty implications. The way Taylor writes it, you’re there, sitting round the table, listening in umcomfortable silence as this particular dick talks and you feel Wallace’s growing unease and you feel his rage and frustration and when he, for once, retaliates, (admittedly in the wrong way and with unpleasant consequences) I was left with a feeling of OMFG. And a renewed vow to never sit or witness in silence one of those conversations again (not that in my memory I have ever been involved in one similar but you get my drift). Anyway, just read it. Do yourself a favour, plough through the science stuff (you may even get something from that part) and work your way to Wallace because for al of his flaws and his faults and my god, he has reason to be flawed, he gives you an oppoutunity to inhabit someone else. To truly see the world through his eyes.
It’s a gift.