Like his films, Kaufman’s tremendous, bonkers first novel Antkind is an artistic consideration of consciousness ... this is a voice-driven novel, and it’s Rosenberg’s self-observation that keeps you reading ... his vivid and relentless speech is weirdly compelling. His voice is mesmerizing: awful and yet funny, magnetic, and oddly vulnerable in its bluster ... Rosenberg’s voice is also what produces the novel’s compelling and excruciating anguish: about communicating the entirety of one’s experience to another, different consciousness with different references. And that anguish is only heightened by the flood of storytelling and film allusions, the way the novel begs to be deconstructed at every turn, asking, do you get it? ... A reader’s ability to enjoy a self-consciously long, free-range 'strange cosmic entertainment' of this intensity and loopiness...is subject to what constructs the reader brings to it. If you don’t know half the allusions, the wordplay and the depth of references might be lost, as so much surface glitter ... It’s a thrilling first novel trying to assume the form of consciousness itself, with all its digressions and delusions ... Antkind is Kaufman pushing himself to every formal and social limit, no holds barred, bleak and devastating, yet marvelous.
Pompous, opinionated, self-conscious, self-loathing, B. is an astonishing creation: a volcano of ridiculous opinions and absurd neuroses, a balding, bearded nightmare of a person whose involutions could practically carry a 700-page narrative by themselves because they, and he, are so riotously funny ... Anyone who’s ever seen a Charlie Kaufman film will recognize the landscape here: a loose-but-faithless representation of 'reality' that ripples with psychedelic strangeness ... If only this summary did any kind of justice to the ferocious comedic energy of the book’s opening, or prepared one for the imaginative maelstrom to follow. It must be said that, by any standard — and even for someone who remembers the shock of Kaufman’s work when it was passed around Hollywood as unproduced samizdat in the 1990s — Antkind is an exceptionally strange book. It is also an exceptionally good one, and though one is tempted to reach for the roster of comparably gnostic novels by contemporary (-ish) writers — not just Wallace, but Pynchon, obviously; John Barth; Joshua Cohen, perhaps — such comparisons inevitably collapse ... The novel’s doublings and redoublings are sometimes confounding, its perversions of an already-perverse reality so lavish as to verge on the gratuitous, and yet. …I’m hard-pressed to call the book 'difficult,' simply because its portrait of B. is so oddly humane and because its baseline energies are closer to those of a Tex Avery cartoon (or an Abbott and Costello routine) than they are to the dauntingly postmodern tradition of which the book also partakes ... Even at its most hallucinogenic, <Antkind remains appealingly earthy ... In a world that is endlessly reshaping itself in the grips of malign and incomprehensible powers, we are all hapless Punchinellos, like B. And yet it is only through being such that we can find — as Kaufman’s novel does, too — anything resembling grace.
... a novel only Charlie Kaufman could have written. I'm aware of how vague that sentence is, but I assure you it fits the novel perfectly. Antkind is strange, disjointed, and obsessive. It's also a wildly imaginative narrative in which Kaufman mentions himself several times, discusses his own work, and claims no one has made a 'real' movie about New York. You could call it a brilliant piece of metafiction or a marvel of postmodern storytelling and you'd be right — but you could also call it bloated or a flashy, eloquent mess and you'd also be right. Ah, subjectivity ... If we are to measure great novels by their ability to surprise readers, then Antkind is a great novel. You never know what will come next ... Kaufman gave his main character a series of fixations and then milked them for all they're worth, while simultaneously offering a thinly veiled critique of the role of social media in our daily life and writing a bizarre love letter to movies ... The one thing that can be said about this book with certainty is that Kaufman is a master of language. He shows this time and again throughout the 750-page reading experience that is Antkind. His sense of humor injects many passages with a unique electricity that makes them memorable and the characters, cultural products, and events he's created speak volumes about his seemingly endless imagination ... On one hand, it is everything we have come to expect from Kaufman: A sharp study of humanity that is aware of place and pays attention to our inner worlds and the ways our filters and preconceived notions affect everything we see and do. On the other hand, this is — to use Kaufman's own words — 'muddled, incoherent, and fetishizing.' The debates about race, for example, add nothing of value to the discussion. In fact, they are the mental meanderings of a white man trying to understand what Otherness means, and we have enough of that already ... But that's just one aspect of a novel that is packed with different elements. Antkind is a bit overstuffed, but we all overstuff ourselves at a buffet once in a while. What matters is this is that this is an entertaining, unapologetic book that never steers clear of — well, anything. And watching Kaufman recklessly throw himself at everything with a backpack full of words is a sight to behold.
... absolutely nothing in this baggy, voluminous debut novel is succinct—but it takes a similarly jaundiced attitude toward questions of free will, cultural manipulation and the possibility of independent thought and creation ... The humor in Antkind is as broad as the novel is long ... Mr. Kaufman’s method is to introduce a farcical non sequitur and then to retcon it into a semblance of a narrative ... The book’s shifting parameters of reality make this possible—or, rather, they cancel out the concept of a meaningful narrative. Mr. Kaufman is obsessed with the flaws in consciousness: the ways that experience blurs with dreams and imagination, the ways the mind is vulnerable to persuasion and memories to revision. As in his films, there are concentric circles of meta-worlds, there are doppelgängers, and there are lots and lots of puppets ... How much you like his films will give you a fair sense of how much patience you’re willing to extend to this novel. For my part, I have a soft spot for Mr. Kaufman’s Catskills-lodge humor, even if it does sometimes reek of flop sweat. And while the book’s endless recursions and self-references seem like the stuff of undergraduate philosophy, there’s something touching about the narrator’s hapless attempts to navigate that nonsensical world and extract truth and significance from it. I wouldn’t want to be a captive in Mr. Kaufman’s consciousness either, but being a voyeur is a different matter. There is something about this book’s extravagantly appointed lunacy that makes the lunacy of real life feel (briefly) more manageable.
Reading Antkind is a bodily thing, so full is it of gut and heart. For once, the cliché front-cover epithet proves true—Antkind will make a reader laugh, then cry ... Memory is funnier here than in most places, and Antkind’s unconventional understanding of it makes for a remarkable reading experience ... A reader might not expect such a massive book about (apparently) so little to compact anything, but the laughs are dense. (Best practice: do not read Antkind somewhere you should be quiet) ... about memory and comedy, but, like any massive postmodern tome, it is about everything else, too—corporatism, the consequences of digitization, visibility, unselfish love, fascism, self-aggrandizement, loss, social anxiety, Truth, 'the hope of brilliance and the fear of never being understood'—it seems as though everything is stuffed in these pages. Antkind is a heavy book but, fortunately, it has enough jokes to feign lightness
... offers a maximalist satire of a contemporary America defined by fake news, corporate bullshit, vacuous pop culture and performative wokeness, but one so excessive, surreal and repetitive that it is itself tiresomely bloated and absolutely exhausting. If anything can happen without consequence, stakes are lowered. It’s absurdism ad infinitum ... Where Kaufman’s films are playfully mind-bending, they usually have real heart. But although Antkind is skippingly clever – saturated with comic allusions, puns, linguistic inventiveness and wildly unfettered imagination – it is sorely lacking characters you actually care about or any emotional narrative to cling to ... There is something deeply wearying about Kaufman mocking woke culture while delivering 700 pages of tedious, white-dude inner life ... Besides, Kaufman’s own tone is one of tittering provocation: sending up tokenistic trans characters, queasily naming B’s daughter – a feminist who publicly renounces her father – Grace Farrow. These are Kaufman’s choices, not his character’s ... feels like a book that’s been indulged rather than edited; there’s a smaller, smarter novel somewhere in here, currently smothered in smug junk.
Enter the mind of Charlie Kaufman at your own risk. There are all kinds of hidden tunnels and portals in there, alternate dimensions, memory loops and animated figurines ... This hefty, often hilariously surreal saga has many of the familiar hallmarks of Kaufman’s film oeuvre. Like 1999’s Being John Malkovich, it’s a spelunking excursion into the murkiest recesses of a human skull ... Antkind is loaded with gags. It’s got clowns (and clown fetishes). You want puns? There are copious puns ... Antkind is about humankind. It’s about our follies, our pretenses, our misperceptions ... And that, I’d have to say, is pretty funny.
... [a] loopy, loony, 720-page raspberry of a first novel. A dyspeptic satire that owes much to Kurt Vonnegut and Thomas Pynchon, Antkind has in Rosenberg a contrarian whose tomatoes are always rotten ... Why spend a minute, let alone 720 pages, with this guy? For starters, he can be outrageously funny, often without meaning to be ... Kaufman, of course, is the clever one here, and he has a blast tweaking toxic masculinity, celebrity worship, political correctness, filmmaking, therapy, high art, low art, and much more ... long but never dull ... Keeping up with the story is nearly impossible. But for all the absurd digressions and circuitous detours, Antkind remains propelled by Kaufman’s deep imagination, considerable writing ability, and bull’s-eye wit.
... an awfully on-the-nose blending of art and lived expectations ... despite the book’s various likable qualities, Charlie Kaufman has disappeared up his own ass with this novel. Given the overwhelmingly meta elements at work, I should probably make clear I’m being metaphorical with that statement ... a parodic barrage of metafictional conceits that keep returning to the same obsessive themes ... a compelling hook, the kind of thing you’d expect to see in one of Kaufman’s films. Unfortunately, the unfolding of the narrative suggests there’s a reason Kaufman has found such success in cinema: With only two hours or so of running time to play with, there’s a firm structure in place that mitigates the desire for excess. But here, Kaufman’s talent for the absurd refuses to bend to any structure whatsoever, stretching on to what feels ad infinitum at points. It gradually becomes enervating, a novel simultaneously overstuffed and plodding. Given free rein to dump the contents of his mind into prose, Kaufman crams into Antkind as many one-joke premises, surrealist curlicues, superficial lampoons, and Pynchon-esque reworkings of his premise. The result is bloated and frustrating—less an embarrassment of riches than a dearth of restraint. The experience of reading about a very silly man’s Kafka-esque descent into suffering becomes a Kafka-esque process in itself ... As satire, it feels outdated and clumsy. As insight into Rosenberg’s character, it reads as caricature ... This accumulating effect of disenchantment and spinning one’s wheels may be intentional, but it doesn’t make the book any more fun to read ... It’s possible to see glimpses of the more impactful book that might’ve been. As anyone who has seen his films or read his screenplays can attest, the writer is capable of some truly arresting passages, and here, when he finds just the right impressions for a feeling or an image, the Pynchon comparisons are apt...And it’s there in the many moments of comedy that succeed by virtue of Kaufman’s warped sensibilities, often deployed with a daffy, Vonnegut-like gusto ... There is gilding the lily, and then there’s shoving the lily under someone’s nose while revealing you’ve replaced it with a squirting joke flower, at the exact moment you unleash a blast of water into someone’s face. The messiness and sprawl and insecurity about every aspect of Rosenberg’s life—of life, full stop—is the point, and there are moments when the tragicomedy feels pure, and true ... Were it not for the flashes of insight, wedded to some oft-excellent prose, the narrative bloat and insecure-white-guy tropes would have remained painful. Thanks to Kaufman’s talents, they are instead tolerable.
Kaufman’s loopy, loony, 720-page raspberry of a first novel. A dyspeptic satire that owes much to Kurt Vonnegut and Thomas Pynchon, Antkind has in Rosenberg a contrarian whose tomatoes are always rotten ... Why spend a minute, let alone 720 pages, with this guy? For starters, he can be outrageously funny, often without meaning to be ... His chronic misspelling of famous names (Jake Gillibrand, Tarrantinoo) is the novel’s best running joke ... Kaufman, of course, is the clever one here, and he has a blast tweaking toxic masculinity, celebrity worship, political correctness, filmmaking, therapy, high art, low art and much more ... for all the absurd digressions and circuitous detours, Antkind remains propelled by Kaufman’s deep imagination, considerable writing ability and bull’s-eye wit.
... funny, exhausting and very, very long. Reading it is like watching (or being) someone trying to sprint to the top of an Escher staircase ... With its unmistakable obsessive-compulsive aesthetic, it could only have sprung from the head of Charlie Kaufman. There is the magnificent joke-telling stamina working against a constant crisis-of-faith undertow, which whispers that all comedy is futile and dishonest. There is the metafictional self-awareness and incessant autoreferencing of real movie celebrities and writers, including of course a despised 'Charlie Kaufman'. There is Kaufman’s fascination with the false promise of cinema – of all art – that human existence can be represented; he catches himself in the act of thinking about his own existence, and then in the act of thinking about thinking about his own existence ... It’s a gigantic book, crammed with insanely creative gags, though these thin towards the end; the material about Trump is a bit stale. Yet Kaufman gouges the reader for laughs with expert force ... Finally Antkind comes to its crazy, hellzapocalypticpoppin ending, and this twilight of the puppet-gods dwindles into darkness, leaving me with the punchdrunk feeling I have after all Kaufman’s movies. He may be someone for whom anxiety and sadness are a personal ordeal, but he transforms them into bleak, stark, unearthly monuments to comic despair.
I’ve long had a weakness for obsessive, neurotic, paranoid, and comically vain narrators, but Charlie Kaufman’s overstuffed, formless first novel, Antkind, may have finally cured me of it ... If this sounds wearisome, it is. Yet Antkind also has flashes of wit and even beauty, often just at the point when the reader has started to wonder if Kaufman wants her to suffer ... What at first appears to be a parody of the parasitical nature of criticism soon metastasizes into a grab bag of long-standing Kaufman motifs and themes: doubles, time travel (mental and otherwise), the torment of consciousness, the impossibility of truly representing experience in art, erotic fixations, professional envy, artistic failure. This proves a mixed blessing, as B himself is such a relentlessly broad caricature that he makes the cadaverous restaurant critic in Ratatouille seem nuanced ... These gags are funny once, perhaps twice, but Kaufman keeps making them over and over again until they arrive like a kind of blow ... In another giddily amusing section of the novel, B meets an imperious woman named Tsai and becomes sexually obsessed...Sadly, however, this segues into an extended bit about clowns and clown porn that is best passed over in silence.
... unmistakably Kaufman ... There are many detours and diversions in Antkind: the lengthy descriptions of Ingo’s comedy nightmare set in the world of Hollywood comedy teams and two-reelers, Brainio (the device that beams movies fused with your ideas into your head), meeting President Donald J. Trunk, B taking a job at a clown shoe factory, his fetish for clown sex, and the moment he encounters his successful doppelgänger. It’s easy to get lost in Kaufman’s unwieldy multiplex of storylines, but it’s never not funny.
Kaufman unleashed, his careening creative brilliance utterly unfettered ... It’s … a lot ... This book is a sprawling, recursive metanarrative, one unbound by literary convention ... a real workout ... n truth, there’s literally nothing straightforward about this book. Every aspect of it – the prose style, the character choices, the narrative direction – is layered and stratified. Ideas are taken out of the box and kicked around before being abandoned. Subplots meander off into the sunset, never to be seen again. In Antkind, reality is a construct and memory is a lie – both figuratively and literally ... It’s a challenging read, to be sure. Kaufman is unapologetic in the demands he places on the reader. The pace is wildly varied, moving at breakneck speed at certain points and slowing to a crawl in others. The voice of our narrator is whinging and wheedling, built upon seemingly oppositional feelings of superiority and victimhood. The real is presented as fictional and the fictional as real – except when it’s the other way around ... extremely readable; one imagines that Kaufman channeled his experiences with making the bizarre accessible on the big screen to make it so ... will not be everyone’s cup of tea. At times, it is willfully obtuse and gleefully off-putting. But there’s a vividity and viscerality to it that will prove irresistible to a certain kind of reader. It is tightly layered and unflinchingly weird, a book that sets the subconscious churning. You’ll have to put in the work, but if you do, you will be richly rewarded.
he sensation of reading it is like tumbling head over heels down a hill, feeling as your feet scrape the ground that you will maybe regain control, and then stumbling and continuing your perilous descent. Divergences that include a stint at Zappos and a world war between an army of Donald Trump robots and the fast-food chain Slammy’s only accelerate the pace. Rosenberg’s single-minded focus on reconstructing the film distorts what happens around him, making even world historical events seem incidental ... In Rosenberg, Kaufman created an avatar of the cynical white ally, in it more for their perception of what it can do for their status in circles than they are for building a better world. Though Kaufman makes good sport of himself, Rosenberg lobs criticism that are often made of Kaufman by critics and could be made of this book — namely, that his work is too male and too white. Making a character who, despite himself, makes legitimate criticisms of your work seem unprincipled is perhaps self-serving, but it’s definitely an interesting, complicated feature of the book.
While convoluted (even for Kaufman), this novel is magnificently imaginative, bringing to mind Beckett, Pynchon, and A. R. Moxon’s more recent The Revisionaries ... With this surprisingly breezy read, given its length, Kaufman proves to be a masterful novelist, delivering a tragic, farcical, and fascinating exploration of how memory defines our lives.
Screenwriter/director Kaufman’s debut brims with screwball satire and provocative reflections on how art shapes people’s perception of the world ... The Pynchonesque scope of Kaufman’s novel gives him liberty to have his opinionated narrator comment on innumerable cultural touchstones ... B.’s outsized personality and his giddily freewheeling experiences make this picaresque irresistible.
Always centrifugal screenwriter Kaufman delivers a terrific debut novel that makes Gravity’s Rainbow read like a Dr. Seuss story ... It’s a splendid, spectacular mess, much like Kaufman’s Being John Malkovich, commanding attention from start to finish for its ingenuity and narrative dazzle ... Film, speculative fiction, and outright eccentricity collide in a wonderfully inventive yarn—and a masterwork of postmodern storytelling.