Don’t. Just don’t.

“As he crossed Cambridge Circus, Jim wished he’d become a banker.”

Let’s clear something up here, even though it’s going to make me sound vain and unbearable. Just skip the first paragraph if you don’t want to hear this. But, without putting too much emphasis on it, I’m clever. I have no common sense, I’ll give you that one, but I am a generally not a stupid man. I’m educated. I’ve got letters after my name. I have an IQ of 132. I’ve read Descartes’ Metaphysical Meditations and understood them. I’m no Einstein, sure, and I don’t understand nuclear fission, but I’m quite bright.

So I thought, then, that I was prepared to read this book but it turns out that maybe my previous assumption was wrong. I am as dumb as a particularly slow lamppost because I did not get what this book was about at all.

Tibor Fischer and I have crossed paths once before with his 2008 novel Good To Be God. I rather enjoyed it and, having been enticed by the cover of this book and a familiar name, I thought I’d try again. The cover is particuarly engaging. There’s just a title on a lined-paper effect backdrop and on the back, a few short reviews. There is absolutely no clue about the content, and it doesn’t even feel or look like a real title. However, it turns out to be seven short stories of various lengths, each one honing in a telescopic look onto a curious member of society.

I cannot say I was particularly impressed with the first five in particular. The lead characters – Jim, John, The Kid, Guy and the reporter – are unpleasant and not especially interesting. Sure, odd things happen to them, and some of the minor characters have a certain curious appeal, but generally, I could take or leave them.

The final two stories, however, were slightly better. “Bookcruncher” got me because it’s about someone with a real passion for literature who is intending to read every English language book ever published. He keeps getting himself purposely locked in bookshops and libraries overnight so he can continue his quest. It also features a cameo from the only place in Paris that I have any interest in – Shakespeare & Co. Bookshop. The last story, “I Like Being Killed”, is the only one with a female lead but, again, not someone whom you’d hurry along to have a drink with any time soon. Miranda is a struggling stand-up comic with a fear of leaving London, who sleeps with men she doesn’t care about to save herself from the trouble of emotions.

I’m sure there are thousands who would disagree with me about this collection, but I found it a struggle. Only 250 pages long, and yet it’s taken me far too long to get through them. There are some good obversations (Where did house spiders live before there were houses? Is life glamorous for anyone, everyone or no one?) Stodgy and with a focus on the banal, I guess the stories are really pointing out that whatever we do and whatever stupid things happen to us, none of it matters in the long run – we’ll all get shit on by someone more successful, popular or attractive than we are.

Fischer has written better. Don’t read this book if you’re stupid.