Lucinda Hoekke spends eight hours a day at the Complaint Line, listening to anonymous callers air their random grievances. Most of the time, the work is excruciatingly tedious. But one frequent caller, who insists on speaking only to Lucinda, captivates her with his off-color ruminations and opaque self-reflections. In blatant defiance of the rules, Lucinda and the Complainer arrange a face-to-face meeting—and fall desperately in love.
Consumed by passion, Lucinda manages only to tear herself away from the Complainer to practice with the alternative band in which she plays bass ..... Hoping to recharge the band’s creative energy, Lucinda “suggests” some of the Complainer’s philosophical musings to Bedwin. When Bedwin transforms them into brilliant songs, the band gets its big break, including an invitation to appear on L.A.’s premiere alternative radio show. The only problem is the Complainer. He insists on joining the band, with disastrous consequences for all.
I didn't like this book. I mean, it was perfectly okay to pass the time, and it's not like I lost anything in the hour it took to read it (not consecutively). It just wasn't very good.
This is weird for me, because normally I worship at the altar of Lethem. He is, seriously, my favorite writer currently taking up oxygen on this big blue lug of a planet. I keep Kafka Amerikana in my locker for reference every lunch period. So you see what difficulty I have in writing anything negative about anything he does ever.
My main problem was the characterization. You just don't get why any of these characters want to be around each other. It's not like they're overtly unpleasant, they're just not described in any way. For instance, the main character, Lucinda, is having conflicted feelings for her recent ex, the guitarist and songwriter for their perpetually nameless band, and who's name I've already forgotten. I just don't know why. He has so little description, so little personality, aside, of course, for Lucinda's mooning over his purdy eyes, and his empathy for a kangaroo at the zoo he works at (or was it a tiger?). The two supporting players get, maybe, a little more to work with--Whatsherface, the guitarist with weird hair that works at a sex shop, and Bedwin, the borderline-autistic songwriter and genius or the band, who gets his own little moment near the end. This end, by the way, is so incomprehensible, I'm not entirely sure it even existed. I'm not gonna spoil it or anything, but it was just so out of nowhere, I just like to pretend it was something else.
The richest character in the entire book was the sadsack yet poetic Complainer, who we meet not long after the beginning (so there goes that mystery), and who Lucinda goes to meet for some reason. These encounters they have are, by far, the best in the book--still hazy, but so sweet and funny and revealing it's okay. But, then again, the end rears it's ugly head, and ruins the whole thing.
Overall, it's just so very vague and unplanned, it almost feels like a rough draft. The plot, these half-assed character quirks, the quick and uncalled-for end. However, it is a funny mess, and fun to read if you're not overtly picky. Fine to read after an especially depressing book.
Rating: 3 out of 10
Also: Jonathan Lethem is a good author. Try Motherless Brooklyn or his latest, Chronic City.