I have just finished reading Jonathan Raban’s Surveillance. I recommend it highly not because it is a political novel (which it is), not because it is a smart novel (which it is), not also because as a political novel its smartness lies in throwing open the question of politics as well as representation (which it does, unlike say, Jay McInerney writing about 9/11). Not because here’s a major writer who blurs the line between fiction and non-fiction (a line that reveals goosebumps if you touch it right). And not even because the protagonist has a bright, young daughter (which she does, and I’m all for bright daughters and the joy that they bring), but because, living as I do in a world that is marked not only by the war on terror but also by little, irritating stuff like readers’ reviews on Amazon, I’m delighted to find that Raban has much to say about the former and also a little about the latter.
Read the book to get a sense of the first. But for the second, here’s a sample: “It seemed to be a part of the house rules at Amazon that to praise a book you had to manifest an exaggerated physiological response—laughing till you cried, cracking up, weeping buckets, or, as a woman from Akron, Ohio, claimed, wetting yourself, choking for breath, depriving yourself of sleep, as if readers were competing for some emotional dysfunction award.”