|Rembrandt, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp|
The Exquisite seems to be the story of a drunk, mentally unstable thief named Henry and his friend Mr. Kindt. Mr. Kindt is an older gentleman with a passion for herring who may be a crime boss, a descendant of the subject of Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson, or both. Somehow he manages to come across as spooky rather than silly (at least mostly), as do his associates, the contortionist twins and a beautiful tattoo artist named Tulip. Henry visits Mr. Kindt in his apartment, has long conversations with him, and sort of becames engaged to perform certain “services” for Mr. Kindt.
Interspersed with scenes of this story is another one, where Henry is in the hospital after a traffic accident. Mr. Kindt is also in the hospital, and they are cared for by a Dr. Tulp. People sharing names and characteristics float from one story to another, and it never becomes quite clear whether they are the same people or not – just as it is never clear whether these parallel scenes precede, follow, or coincide with the main story.
Even though there are sequences of events, the book doesn’t exactly have a plot. The whole thing is vaguely dreamlike and has a hallucinatory feel – as if Henry was floating through the world only half-aware of what was going on around him, and occasionally mixed up dream and reality.
I found it hard to really get engaged in the book and struggled to keep reading it. It wasn’t exactly bad but it didn’t pull me in at all. Reviews that I’ve seen of the book have ranged from positive to glowing. Perhaps this is another one of those too-modern books that some of us just don’t “get”.