Without question this man is a genius. His work is in the realm of self-parody at times, as those who have watched his wonderful series of architectural studies of England that were on the BBC some time ago will confirm. It's like a puzzle book for those sitting a life exam. It can make you forget your own name, figuratively speaking, so alliterative, so allusive, so damned clever is this writing. The thing is so mightily intelligent that it could take a Tripos tomorrow. What's it about? Well, it's about a quarter to three sometimes, or something like an inch and a quarter thick. It's about war and peace and dolphins and it's about Eddie and Douglas and Monica, Alban Meyer Decker and Guy Vallender. It's about Leopoldsville, gold mines, bridges, Jean Marie and Bruno Berg. There is incest. There's also a nasty bit about the Jesuits. There's a deal of wife and other woman beating, sometimes to death. There is a surprising attribution of the term Sweet Fanny Adams. There are STDs. It may induce nausea in the unwary.
There's a bit about Magritte (at least I think it was Magritte); here are two quotes: "It's a clever Belgian who knows his father"; "... the job of the stuff in bottles [perfume] is to socialise the elemental reek which frightens man with its evidence of the generic potency of women." All the other quotes I isolated for inclusion here proved to be too obscene. But funny. Oh yes, Meades does funny. He does it bleakly, rollickingly, obscenely, scurrilously, violently and with added jouissance. He does it, in fact, unforgettably well.
Well, I've read the thing and I'm still not sure what it's about what its about or why. I have some theories and maybe by the time I've read the book again I might be in a fit state to pontificate. At the moment I am exhausted. All I know is that it is very, very funny in a coolly clever and lucidly devastating way. Want to read it? You definitely should.