If you are looking for an extremely hilarious book to read over the summer, look no further than Max Barry’s novel Lexicon. The funniest things are the ones that are meant in earnest. The intensity of earnestness is directly related to the degree of humor.
Max Barry was trying to create a suspense thriller but ended up writing a hilarious parody of Harlequin romance with a pretense at intellectualism. Without giving up much of the plot, let me tell you the basic structure. In the novel, a pair of men called Eliot and Wil are trying to outwit a woman called Emily. The men and the woman are a collection of gender stereotypes to the extent that you will not find in even the trashiest Harlequin romance.
Emily is a completely brainless creature whose only interest consists in finding “boys” and getting them to notice her. Emily is a jumble of uncontrollable emotions that are like a force of nature. She is completely obsessed with men and subservient to them while being utterly incapable of making a connection with any woman. If you made the mistake of reading 50 Shades of Grey and wondered why the female protagonist was so pathetic, you need to read Lexicon because this novel will make you realize that, compared to Barry’s Emily, Anastasia Steele is a pillar of dignity and feminist empowerment.
Eliot and Wil are just as stereotypical and parodic. They are incapable of expressing any emotion at all and suffer as a result. There is this hilarious scene where they try to out-macho each other about a tire that needs to be changed. Eliot and Wil also compete as to which one of them has fewer human needs and desires. As a result, they both become completely robotic and object-like.
The entire plot of the novel could be resumed as, “If only he managed to squeeze out the words ‘I love you’ on time.”
What makes the novel even more hilarious is its intellectual pretentiousness. The author intersperses the story with childish little disquisitions on the nature of mass media. His insights are of such depth as to bore any intelligent 5-year-old. As an adult, one feels vicarious embarrassment when seeing a writer deliver “insights” that are so superficial.
This is a thoroughly enjoyable read and I highly recommend it. If you don’t try to take the novel seriously, it will offer a lot of fun.