I actually fell asleep. I mean a book was literally that bad that despite the 12 hours sleep I had indulged in the night before, I dozed off mid sentence. There is a point at which we all must accept that even the most talented writer is sometimes not that good. As Karl Pilkington once famously said of a thing; ‘if you can’t do it, don’t do it.’ This is advice that Rilke should well have heeded before he began writing Die Aufzeichnungen des Malte Laurids Brigge, making the foolhardy jump from his succesful poetry to prose. The result? Me, spending Christmas reading a book about a manchild who is sickeningly obsessed with death, which has precisely no plot, consistency or point of interest. Yes I enjoy the token necrophiliac as much as anyone, but after he reflects on his mother’s/ father’s/ the man down the street’s death for the billionth time it really does invoke an existential level crisis, culiminating in the age old Oxford student question; ‘what the hell am I doing with my life?’ Rilke is the hipster of his era, supposedly deep and meaningful but actually just dull with the added disappointment that there is no nettle tea and the writer himself is incapable of growing a beard of any great note. The only thing that kept me through this book, which in itself was reminiscent of a silent fart that lingers to the point of being unbearable, was the joyous thought of what else I could be doing. So without further ado, here is my list.*
1) Washing up – Yes I admit this is a bit of a cop-out as I sometimes enjoy doing the washing up, as it can actually be quite therapeutic. However add the caveat that this occurs when bidden, for a wedding of 180 guests, a chef that seems to use every pan imaginable, enduring the mental pain of being forcibly required to throw away heaps of brownies to wash the pan and the fact that the radio is broken, and you may begin to comprehend the depths of my dislike for Rilke.
2) Watching Come Dine With Me – just the thought of the show made me shudder and writing it’s name I felt I had somehow made myself unclean. I cannot stand it. The people are always horrible and put in a situation in which they are deliberately put up against one another in a show format in which it actually pays to be as two-faced and backstabbing as is humanely possible. The losers are those who were not subtle enough in their malice. However after long deliberation I have concluded this sign of the fall of civilisation and the Armageddon to come is still better than Rilke’s Die Aufzeichnungen des Malte Laurids Brigge.
3) Analysing my own vomit – Here I would enjoy the opportunity to compare the different shades of colour and consistencies created by my heaving stomach and would ponder the mechanisms which meant that this particular combination of remains fell out in such a specific arrangement.Horrific, I know. Yet still better than Rilke.
4) Sampling my own vomit – as above but an entirely more sensuous experience. This time you can wonder at the different flavours as they mix on your palate. (note this would not be eating it by the bucketful, as although I do hate Rilke, I value my dental hygeine above my mental sanity.)
5) Reading the Daily Mail – not yet decided on this last one. Rilke is dull but this is perhaps too far…
Apparantely Die Aufzeichnungen des Malte Laurids Brigge is autobiographical. Fits.
*Note this list is by no means conclusive. If you have anything to add, please tweet @cherwellartbook with the hashtag #stillbetterthanrilke