The Average American Male by Chad Kultgen

averageamericanI needed a few days to reflect on this book before I really could decide what I actually thought about it. I’ll be honest: I didn’t, and still don’t, like it. And I won’t be keeping it (I originally picked it up thinking it was a comedy!), but the story itself is deeper and more considered than it at first appears.

After battling, for some chapters, the strong urge to simply stop reading, I did eventually persevere to the end in the hope of some redemption – or, at least, explanation – of the main character, who’s only focus seems to be self-important thoughts or acts of sex. Told from his point of view, the story itself ultimately leaves you feeling dirty and used. Which, I assume, is deliberate.

This is quite a quick, easy book to read, once you get over the initial shock of  the main character’s narcissistic and misogynistic approach to the world and people around him. In a number of ways, it’s a brief and vulgar experience.

An anti-hero, the main character is neither likeable, nor easy to relate to. Neither, presented through his eyes, do the other characters appear to have much to recommend them. Women are presented as interfering, ridiculous, or ugly. Men are presented as either brainless or as insultingly-minded as the main character himself is. Stereotypes are extreme, which – again – I assume is deliberate.

The book itself feels like a comment on the male/female divide – the rise of equality and feminism. But I still can’t decide which side it is on, despite being very clear that it is definitely on one side.

Despite his ignorant personality, a little spark of light does eventually threaten to emerge in the main character’s future and, for seemingly the first time, he begins to hope. Just for a moment, the world brightens. Sadly, this little light seems to fade before it’s really had much of a chance to ignite.

I saw somewhere that somebody had compared this story to American Psycho, and I do see the comparison. However, I also feel that this book lacks the warmth(!), sophistication and importance that comes with the social commentary and observations on capitalism, etc that American Psycho offers. It does, though, boast a similar futility, and an approach to story-telling: the anti-hero presents the world and people around him in a stark, harsh light and reaches the ultimate realisation that there is only darkness.

Personally, I don’t feel that the author accomplished fully what he probably intended to with this story, although I do recognise that there are very soft subtleties to the story that are even more obscured (again, deliberately) due to the vulgarity, obscenity, and discrimination put forth by the main character.

As the author’s debut novel, it’s a bold – and doubtlessly brave – first book. The story has a complete, rounded plot that ties together evenly, and probably offers an interesting view of the real, modern world for people with a subjective point of view towards gender relations.

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