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A Review: The Beach

1975 words - 8 pages

Confidently exploring every traveller's remote island and secluded beach fantasy, Alex Garland tantalises the consequences of life on the paradise on earth, conveniently being 'the Beach'. The author's utopian debut novel illustrates (using notably clear prose) a traditional tale of generation resentment and confusion appearing influenced by film, in its theme, its narrative style and the fixation of the main characters, especially the protagonist.Bangkok's backpackers' quarter, the Khao San Road, is where the novel begins in 'a decompression chamber for those about to leave or enter Thailand, a halfway house between East and West' (p. ).At a guesthouse on the outskirts of Bangkok, a disturbed, suicidal Vietnam veteran, called Daffy Duck (more Warner Bros. characters to follow!) gives a young, British traveller named Richard a map to paradise, a secret beach on an inaccessible island near Ko Samui, isolated, unspoiled and 'not-yet-featuring' in the latest Lonely Planet Guide... That very night, Duffy Duck cuts his wrists destined to play with Richard's imagination. Accompanied by Etienne and Françoise, a young French couple who are fellow travellers (and guesthouse residents); Richard sets out on an udventure to find the beach.From the very beginning of The Beach, the reader is faced with a book about filmic archetypes or clichés and wild imagination, that is made clear in the single page of text in italics with which the book opens. It is hallucinating and intoxicated, a climaxing of voices, beginning with a Vietnamese(?) prostitute ('All day, all night, me love you long time'), switching to a scene of paranoid combat ('this is Alpha patrol and we are taking fire'), and with an interesting identification of stereotypical Vietnam movie moments: 'Dropping acid on the Mekong Delta, smoking grass through a rifle barrel, flying on a helicopter with opera blasting out of loudspeakers, tracer-fire and paddy-field scenery, the smell of napalm in the morning.' The cliches are multiplied to the point where they start communicating amongst themselves generating a stimulating excess of signification. A controversial issue often debated on postmodernism discussions (Umberto Eco in Lodge 1988) is the process by which 'kitsch', under conditional reception by an attuned audience can allegedly achieve something no far from classical art forms. Garland in this novel has attempted it through a wide range of symbols quickly identified by fellow 'Generation Xers' leading to what Eco identifies as the birth of a cult in his journalistic essay on Casablanca the film (Lodge 1988). The Beach is filled with a number of references to popular (low?) culture of the 1980's: Atari and Nintendo video games, Tin-tin and Asterix comics, Warner Brothers cartoons, Airfix models, The A-Team and the film Zombie Flesh-Eaters.The Beach clearly is a criticism of this backpacker culture even anti-traveller in a lot of ways. More general observations about...

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