On to more important things- I'm starting to get the impression that only 100 novels were written in the 20th century. How there are only 94 books better than this is very confusing to me.
The whole book is about a lovable bastard that gets into all sorts of wacky hijinks that coincidentally overlap with each other. Philosophical discussions, drunken dives in the Thames, befriending radical political figures, the whole works. Every word up to this point has been hasn't mattered one bit, and the inevitable conclusion where all of the protagonist's problems magically solve each other is just around the corner. The problem is that I don't care about any of his problems or have anything invested in the book. I just don't care about what happens next.
That's not to say the book isn't entertaining, because it is. The back and forth between the characters is incredibly entertaining and the moments of complete, dumbfounded irony are just about perfect. Also, the book holds an incredible amount of potential for subversive themes/metaphors. If I wanted to frame it like this, the book is about a tug of war between mainstream and underground culture with the intelegentsia or academic class (or whatever you want to call it) being used as the rope. Jack (the protagonist) is managing this battle horribly, while his sortof friend Hugo does it very well, balancing everything by using the mainstream and indulging in the underground while letting all of its horrible side effects slide off his back.
In this sense, the book could be a wonderful work of allegory, but I have issues with this approach, since most people who read this will just gloss over the metaphor entirely and those who don't are already reading this into everything (*Author raises hand*). So it boils down to the book being basically a fun but entirely trivial read.
I've also notice a push in this list towards the (more or less) lovable bastard protagonist. Ginger man and U.T.N. hit this square on the head, while Ambersons touched it briefly and Postman did as well. Sheltering Sky was just a bastard and Sophies Choice missed entirely by trying to portray the protagonist as some irascible and naive twenty something, but since he was talking about himself he sounded like he was just trying to talk about how much of an adult he was now. Pompous jerk. Either way, I don't know if this is the list makers' preference or a theme of 20th century literature. Either way it could get old quick. Hopefully not.