Copyright © 1997. All Rights Reserved.
by Alexander Theroux
Here's a thought: shouldn't a book that is classified as a comedy be... comical? Alexander Theroux's Three Wogs introduces us to a number of characters who are not funny, merely infuriating. Any humor at all comes in the form of stunned disbelief at their ridiculous antics and inane remarks. Speaking of ridiculous, Theroux's excessive description is so tedious at times that more than once I found myself counting the number of words in one sentence (80 words per sentence was not uncommon). A sure sign that the novel is not exactly "captivating."
Then again, if searching for underlying meanings, deciphering complex vocabulary and examining socio-political issues through the eyes of eccentric characters is your idea of a jolly good time, this just might be the book for you.
Theroux's novel deals with three Londoners, each of whom has an encounter with a wog (quaint British slang for someone who is "not one of us"). The result is a compilation of three distinct stories bound by the common thread of racism.
The first situation centers around a few paranoid busybodies who feed each other's intolerance, indeed they compete to be more racist than one another. Though their bickering could be construed as funny, at the same time it is as frustrating as listening to Don Rickles' racial jokes.
The next encounter is more provocative as one of the Londoners, Roland, and a "wog," Dilip, work together. It is this connection that makes Roland believe he's an expert on India, even though he assumes India and Pakistan are the same country. It is Roland's "arrogance of disenchanted insight" that makes him that much more absurd.
The last close encounter is even more intimate and confusing for an English reverend. He struggles with an attraction to, if not a fascination with, his black choir leader: a difficult problem for a guy who has a racist mother.
With what he thinks is careful description and comical dialogue, Theroux attempts to illuminate a serious problem. Too bad the novel's impact is greatly reduced by the time required to figure out what the hell each sentence means. (If you survive this, Theroux has written two other novels and a variety of fables and essays.)
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