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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Are you Experienced ?

William Sutcliffe

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To purchase Are you Experienced ?

Title: Are you Experienced ?
Author: William Sutcliffe
Genre: Novel
Written: 1997
Length: 235 pages
Availability: Are you Experienced ? - US
Are you Experienced ? - UK
Vacances indiennes - France
Meine Freundin, der Guru und Ich - Deutschland

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Our Assessment:

B- : fairly amusing, but too simplistic

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
New Statesman A 19/12/1997 Maggie O'Farrell
The Sunday Times A 13/6/1998 Martin Higgins

  Review Consensus:

  Hilarious, spot-on novel about backpackers in India.

  (Note that the complete review does not even want to speculate what these reviewers have been smoking.)

  From the Reviews:
  • "Extremely and incisively funny." - Maggie O'Farrell, New Statesman

  • "Nobody is spared from (Sutcliffe's) acid pen and the result is a riotously funny trip across the sub-continent." - Martin Higgins, The Sunday Times

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Are you Experienced ? begins promisingly with its two epigraphs -- one from Aeschylus, one from John Wayne Bobbitt. But clever though they may be, they are not really entirely appropriate. Here, as elsewhere, Sutcliffe goes for the quick cheap laugh, without trying harder. Surely Indian classical literature would, for example, offer a simple sentiment as that expressed by Aeschylus -- but Sutcliffe does not seek one out.
       Are you Experienced ? is a backpacker novel, yet another version of a traveller's travails in India. There are some decent laughs along the way -- a fair number of genuinely amusing scenes, and two or three striking sentences -- but Sutcliffe goes about his task very lazily. His hero, Dave (who narrates the book) is a sad sack trying to get someone in the sack. It's what leads him to India, as he allows the object of his interest, his good mate's girlfriend Liz, to convince him to journey abroad, though it was never something that particularly interested him.
       Dave is the saddest sort of backpacking tourist, and though Sutcliffe uses him effectively to portray the many aimless Westerners who go to India he is simply too boring to be of much interest. Dave cannot stand being alone and has no idea what to do in India. His sexual misadventures vaguely amuse (he travels with a box of two hundred condoms, ever hopeful) and he faces the usual tourist problems (illness, beggars, endless waits, other tourists), but it is not a particularly interesting trip. India does not come alive in the least.
       Sutcliffe is on target with some of the objects he skewers -- so the veneration for The Book (the Lonely Planet Guide to India, which every single soul seems to carry as their bible) -- but his sarcasm is not sharp enough to make this trip truly fun. The moral of the book is very English indeed -- god's country suffices, there's nothing to be learned abroad. The only thing that Dave gets out of his whole three month ordeal is a set of stories that he figures will come in handy to pick up women.
       There are amusing scenes, and the unlikely Ranj -- an Anglo-Indian who travels with Dave for a while -- is at least a fun figure, but most of the book is simply too simplistic. As a completely undemanding read Are you Experienced ? has its moments, but you can do much better.

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Are you Experienced ?: Reviews: William Sutcliffe:
  • William Sutcliffe in the (African) Sunday Times on backpacking.
Other books by William Sutcliffe under review: Other books under review that might be of interest:
  • Pankaj Mishra's Butter Chicken in Ludhiana, an Indian travelling in India.
  • Ajay Singh's novel, Give 'Em Hell, Hari, offering more interesting (and frequently more amusing) insight into India than Sutcliffe provides.
  • Bill Drummond's Annual Report includes a good India-travelling section as he seeks out the goddess Kali.
  • Antonio Tabucchi's elegant Indian Nocturne
  • See also the Index of Contemporary British fiction at the complete review

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About the Author:

       English author William Sutcliffe was born in 1971.

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