Anybody who follows Teju Cole on twitter, will be aware of his penchant with crafting clever sentences and his uncanny ability to present the most macabre news in a jovial 140 character limit. The Nigerian author is famous for his tweets called ‘small fates’ , Examples --
The 140 character limit acts as a constraint, yet is the true test for a journalist to condense information that has relevance and the required punch. I picked up Open City after reading a number of Cole’s tweets convinced that his book will be filled with lip smacking sentences, and powerful stories. I was disappointed.
The Independent describes Cole’s book as an “exhilarating” post-melting-pot novel. Cole’s book is anything but exhilarating. It’s about a young Nigerian doctor’s rant about everything, yet nothing. The character, Julius, glances over history, politics and bird migration, just as any commoner would do, but doesn't present a radical view nor engages the reader. Simply put, it’s just a random conversation of things we already know.
While the book might be illuminating to a 11th grade kid who wants to know why Israel and Palestine are fighting, it serves no purpose for literary enlightenment or incisive knowledge. A thorough Wikipedia read should suffice.
Like history and politics, the book also touches on human behaviour but doesn't offer to take sides, delve into specific details, offer a chance to learn and understand something new, anything illuminating.
At best, Cole’s novel is mash-up of everyday conversations on random topics. Not only is it a cumbersome read, the only thing I learnt from the book is how incessantly pestering bedbugs can be, much like the protagonist’s never-ending narration