Home > 2010, 21st Century, Abandoned books, French Literature, Novel, Rolin Jean > The Ravishing of Britney Spears by Jean Rolin.

The Ravishing of Britney Spears by Jean Rolin.

Le ravissement de Britney Spears by Jean Rolin 2011 Not translated into English.

After this week’s awful events in Paris, I’m not comfortable with writing about The Ravishing of Britney Spears and you’ll understand why soon. But this was the billet I intended to write this week and that’s what I’ll do. Doing otherwise would give more power to murderers and that’s not acceptable.

Rolin_BritneyYou can’t imagine the buzz there’s been around Le ravissement de Britney Spears by Jean Rolin when it was released. All the critics were raving about it. The plot seemed like a good idea: a French spy is sent in Los Angeles to investigate threats of Islamic terrorist attacks against Britney Spears. As an iconic pop star, the terrorists allegedly think killing her would have a great impact on masses. So far so good. That’s why I was interested in reading the book. And I also knew that Jean Rolin had lived in Los Angeles for a while, so I expected a real feel of the city.

The problem is that our spy doesn’t have a driving license. And he’s on a mission in sprawling L.A. where there are less metro lines than in Lyon. So he’s wandering around the city in public buses. And he describes his journeys in a very detailed way. And all these passages sound like I’m learning by heart the L.A. map of buses. And I’M BORED TO DEATH. At page 121, my head was still full of questions. When will the story really start? Will he give up the mindless descriptions of travelling by bus? No, he won’t? After one look at the TBR, I stopped reading it.

I could have liked this novel. It is about Los Angeles and, from the descriptions, the writer had a good feel of the city. All his traveling by bus makes him visit places he would have ignored if he had been driving. He shows another side of the city than the one we usually see on TV. I could also have liked to read about his arguments explaining why attempting to Britney Spears’s life could fulfill a political goal for terrorists. There are also descriptions about paparazzi’s M.O. and trash press and it could have been interesting.

This book didn’t work for me because in my opinion, it didn’t pick the right side where literary genres are concerned. With a carless spy on a mission in LA and whose main contact info’s name is Fuck, you need to be mighty good to turn it into a serious novel. These two elements tip the scale in favor of crazy or state-of-the-nation satire. I would have loved to see what Kotzwinkle or Carlos Salem would have done with such a pitch. Or Max Barry, who would have turned it into a dystopian novel. It has everything to become a crazy high paced novel with intelligent thoughts. Jean Rolin decided to tip the scale on the side of serious. Slow pace enhanced by long sentences, serious descriptions of L.A., serious thoughts about Britney Spears and serious snoring on my side.

Too bad. I know someone else who had the same experience as me with the book. (Summed up in a sentence “much ado about nothing”) but the ratings are rather good on Goodreads. So perhaps I read it at a bad moment. Or more likely I have a tendency to prefer more off-the-wall books and it felt like a missed opportunity.

Or the all the fun was after page 121.

  1. January 10, 2015 at 2:04 am

    this sounds like someone who just jumped on a way of getting high levels of attention just by using the name of someone famous but actually has no clue on how to write a book. throw it away


    • January 10, 2015 at 12:01 pm

      I wouldn’t be that harsh. He was writing literary fiction well before this book. He can write. And he wasn’t using a famous name to get attention. I just didn’t like this novel but he has talent as a writer.


  2. January 10, 2015 at 3:42 am

    Thank you for posting it anyway!


    • January 10, 2015 at 11:44 am

      I always post about the books I didn’t like or finish. It’s interesting to stop and think about why that particular book didn’t work for me.


  3. January 10, 2015 at 9:30 am

    I’m not keen on his referencing Marguerite Duras.
    I’ve got La Clôture which must be rather good, I think but I’m not keen to read this.


    • January 10, 2015 at 11:41 am

      I forgot to mention that in my billet. I’m not happy with it either, especially since “ravissement” is not the most common way to say rapt. It would be “enlèvement”, so the reference to Duras is probably intentional.


      • January 10, 2015 at 11:51 am

        Exactly my point. I was sure you’d noticed it as well.


        • January 13, 2015 at 11:10 pm

          I didn’t like that Duras, btw.


  4. January 10, 2015 at 11:42 am

    I haven’t come across this author before but this sounds like a novel of missed opportunities…thanks for posting your thoughts (at least I can give this one a miss if and when a translation appears).


    • January 10, 2015 at 11:46 am

      It was my first Rolin. He’s a known writer and I’m not going to dismiss him entirely because of this one.


  5. January 10, 2015 at 7:39 pm

    I think that you were correct in terms of your reasoning for putting this post up.

    This does seem an odd book If you had not brought up the subject I would have assumed that it was a satire.


    • January 13, 2015 at 10:59 pm

      I would have liked it to be funny. I often find that contemporary French literature is too serious.


  6. January 11, 2015 at 4:42 pm

    Reviews such as this one are the reason why I’m no longer looking for suggestions from literary critics. I honestly wonder if they read the books they criticize, praise or even reward. I wonder though if your conscience doesnt nag you to pick it up again or reread it. I only quit on two books but I know that I will pick them up and give them a chance even if it might be years from now, so I wonder if you will find yourself doing that.


    • January 13, 2015 at 11:01 pm

      It makes you question the critics’ vision, that’s for sure. Or maybe I’m too stupid to see what’s so good in this one.

      My conscience is totally fine with putting this book on the shelf and forgetting it there forever. But I know the feeling, that’s how I felt after abandoning Berlin Alexanderplatz.


  7. January 12, 2015 at 12:20 am

    I hadn’t even heard of this, but even if I had it’s doubtful I would have picked it up. The title made me think it was about something else entirely.


    • January 13, 2015 at 11:03 pm

      The title is a reference to Le ravissement de Lol V Stein by Marguerite Duras. It should have tipped me off, I didn’t like that Duras at all.
      I would have liked a L.O.L. book but not a Lol V Stein book…


  8. January 14, 2015 at 10:21 am

    Sorry to know that you didn’t like the book as much as you had hoped, Emma. It looks like the author tipped on the wrong side repeatedly while writing this book. It looks like the book could have been a good satire, but the author seems to have missed that opportunity. Interesting to know about the reference to Marguerite Duras.


    • January 16, 2015 at 10:27 pm

      Hi Vishy.
      This one was a disappointment. It happens.


  9. Jeff
    January 31, 2015 at 8:39 pm

    Endless and detailed descriptions of places rather reminds me of Robbe-Grillet.

    Is it possible that the author is attempting to contrast high-minded ambition (in the form of political assassination) and the mind-numbing reality it has to contend with?


    • February 1, 2015 at 12:03 pm

      I’ve never read Robbe-Grillet but you must be right since the book title is an obvious reference to the Nouveau Roman.

      I don’t know what to answer to your question, especially since I haven’t finished the book. I’m tempted to say no.
      I’d say it’s more an exploration of LA, of the “people-isation” of our western societies (all this interest for glitter, fame and the unhealthy hounding of stars by paparazzis) than that. He thinks that our societies as so decadent that attempting to Britney Spears’s life would have the same political impact as killing Gandhi or Martin Luther King. And indeed, it’s plausible. What does it say about our society that a trashy pop star could mean as much as that? Are we happy to live in a society that actually thinks that all that glitters is gold?
      I liked the idea of exploring that issue. I was disappointed in the form of the book but I still think it has substance.

      Liked by 1 person

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