book reviews by Althea

Review: Kalki

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Kalki by Gore Vidal
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My Post-Apocalyptic Book Club selection for January.

I’d never read anything by Gore Vidal, so was interested to explore this.

“Kalki” is a tale told by Teddy Ottinger, a celebrity aviatrix who idolizes Amelia Earhart, is overweeningly proud of being the best female pilot in the world, and has become notorious for her ghostwritten bestselling memoir, “Beyond Motherhood.” But now, she is putting pen to paper herself to tell the reader how she ended up getting roped into being involved with the cult leader known as Kalki. In Hinduism, Kalki is an avatar of the god Vishnu. And that’s exactly who this Kalki claims to be. Except, to journalists who’ve done a bit of research, it seems that Kalki is actually James Kelly, an ex-soldier who’s now apparently suspected by the CIA of being an international drug runner, operating out of an exotic pet shop run by his ex-wife as a ‘front’ while he cavorts in robes with his new girlfriend, Lakshmi, formerly known as Doris.

The first half of the book, I found to be very slow. It’s soooooo 70’s, in so many ways. The Freudian-style psychology was annoying and a lot of the social satire (of which there is much) felt very dated. If I hadn’t been reading for book club, I might not have persevered. However, I was ultimately glad that I did. I felt that the last part of the book redeemed it. Vidal does a great job of leading the reader, along with Teddy (a very unreliable narrator), in unexpected directions, and the wry and witty tone contrasts beautifully with the utter bleakness of where everything is headed.

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