Winner of a few awards and top of quite a few lists, Asymmetry is a book that defies a normal categorization. The book has three parts which can best be described as two halves with a long short story tacked onto the end to wrap things up.
The first half reads like a Woody Allen movie. I hated it. The post-post-modern liteary cliches were just overwhelmingly in your face. I get it, you have some clever phrases. You live in New York. Your life is interesting because it is so ordinary, and yet not. But it starts to build in some serious ways, some unbelievable moments become acceptable as just how things should ordinarily be. This life starts to take on new meaning both in content and literary form. Most of my annoyance has started to shed, and by the end of the first part I think this is an okay book. I am not sure why it is getting such high praise other than perhaps the New York literary scene is incestual.
The second part of the book is foreshadowed from the first, in fact the meta point is made explicit while eating ice cream, but yet it still hits so well. Can a young woman in New York from Massachusetts truly inhabit the life of a muslim Iraqi-American man? Yes, in a way that even though you know what is happening, by the end you are so caught up that it doesn't matter. This is a story about who someone is that is real to us. I was at a loss for how I should reconcile the unreality of the story I was reading with the emotions it evokes. You care for this man trapped in an aiport trying to deal with the dual nature of both his homelands. This part makes the book.
The final part of the book is just a radio interview. It ties up a few of the outstanding topics from the first part of the book. The middle part is a non sequitur in many ways, but thematically it fits. The last part feels tacked on and didn't do much for me.
Overall this is worth a read. If only for the middle. It might have been a decent short story. Scratch that, the whole package is really necessary for each part to really shine through. I was ready to call this a case of the emperor's clothes near the beginning, but I am glad I stuck it out.