This book begins, ‘The first and last thing I do everyday is see what strangers are saying about me.’ That’s Kitab Balasubramanyam writing, a young man for whom the virtual world is the true reality. Later he says, ‘anything I can think of, anything that I do online. Which is everything, because who knows in this day and age where to even buy a stamp?’
Poor Kitab is rather a mess. He’s published a novel which was noticed but didn’t sell many copies; he spends time giving readings in pubs and other grim venues. His widowed father tries to treat him as a friend and talks all the time about his many girlfriends. Worst of all, Kitab’s girlfriend Rach has moved out. ‘She was constantly irritated that I spent my time self-promoting on the internet and living off my inheritance instead of giving her any attention.’ There’s a surprise! After losing Rach, Kitab fails to get on with his second novel, hardly goes out and doesn’t eat properly. His tenuous grasp on reality leads to a potentially dangerous fantasy, which has a surprise in store for the reader. All this before an Indian boy with the same name, who has been stalking him on the internet, turns up in person and starts to seriously mess with his life. Kitab 2, as he becomes known, is trouble for Kitab 1.
As so often these days with books about young men (see also Nick Hornby), I found myself mentally shouting, ‘Grow up! Get a proper job! Take some responsibility!’ Nevertheless, it’s hard not to like Kitab; so basically nice, so vulnerable, so screwed up by unresolved family issues. I found the book amusing in its use of language, and also touching. A warning to sensitive souls: there is far more here about internet porn and its usage than I wanted to know. I’m not the target audience for this book but then I’m so analogue innit.
To be published by The Friday Project on July 3rd. I read it courtesy of NetGalley.