“Hey,” said Annie Kelly this morning on my WhatsApp. “I just read your Books post, have you read Such a Fun Age?”
Oh my god, I did. I did! I did read Kiley Reid’s recent masterpiece – you probably have too as it has been celebrated pretty much everywhere. I just clean forgot to include it. I blame my post-migraine brain, also I am generally inept. But maybe something else is going on. Maybe I am so envious about how brilliant it was I just can’t bear to have it in the forefront of my mind. A bit like Fleishman Is In Trouble. Argh! My eyes! The light shining from it is too bright! Put it away!
But of course, of course you must read Such A Fun Age. It’s absolutely terrific – fun and funny and reads almost like a thriller while also being a really clever hand-on-chin-fingers-drumming look at class and race in contemporary America.
I won’t give you a synopsis because I never think they’re that helpful in deciding whether or not you want to read a book. But I can tell you this: there are no sad children or gruesome stuff. I laughed out loud many times. Perhaps my favourite bit is where two characters sit and argue about who is the most racist. Answer? Neither of them is at all. Or they’re both as bad as each other? Discuss.
It also made me feel a but neurotic and hunted about the question that niggles at me, which is: Am I Secretly Racist? I don’t think I am. In fact I’m very confident that I am not.
But in the last ten years I have, rightly or wrongly, received the message that I am racist without knowing it. I have been told that I am racist deep inside, “institutionally”, in my unconscious – just because that’s the way of the white Western world. It’s almost got nothing to do with me or my personality, it’s just the way. Like a piece of code written into a website that you cannot excise. So am I? Or not? I mean I really, really don’t think I am. But who the hell am I to say that.
And while I am worrying so much about this, am I wildly and horribly overcompensating in the meantime, just like one of the characters in Such a Fun Age?
Anyway, all of this is my problem and mine to navigate. What I’m trying to say that this is not only a funny and generous book – like only the very best books, it makes you re-evaluate yourself for better or worse.
What the hell will Kiley Reid do for her next trick? I can’t wait.