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The Ravishing of Britney Spears by Jean Rolin.

January 9, 2015 20 comments

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.

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