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Pompey [Hardcover]

Jonathan Meades
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

6 May 1993
Takes place between the mid-1940s and the mid-1970s, in Brussels, Salisbury, the Congo, the industrial wastes of Lorraine - but the dominant setting is in the titular city - a nightmarish brick grid populated by freaks. Meades has also written "Filthy English" and "Peter Knows What Dick Likes".

Product details

  • Hardcover: 472 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape Ltd; First edition edition (6 May 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224032933
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224032933
  • Product Dimensions: 24.2 x 15.8 x 4.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 592,491 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


'Disgusting and brilliant - should earn Meades justifiable comparison to Joyce, Celine, Pynchon.' PAUL SPIKE, Vogue 'There is no doubt that Pompey is the product of a brilliant mind: one would not, however, wish to dine with its author. NICK HORNBY, TLS 'The English novel needs its senses to be violently deranged, and this piledriver of a book - might just provide a kick-start.' ELIZABETH YOUNG, --Independent on Sunday --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Jonathan Meades writes and presents topographical and architectural television films, among them the series The Victorian House, Abroad in Britain and Further Abroad. Since 1986 he has contributed a weekly column about restaurants to the Times. His book include This Is Their Life, An Illustrated Atlas of the World's Buildings, Filthy English, Peter Knows What Dick Likes and Pompey. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An underrated classic of English sleaze 10 Oct 2000
Format:Unknown Binding
Best known for his idiosynchratic television series' and broadsheet restaurant criticism, Jonathan Meades here presents us with an extraordinarily dense, vile vision of the underbelly of provincial Engliand in the post war period. With his lurid tales of a Portsmouth firework maker and his dysfunctional family, Meades invites us to look beyond the 'Londoncentric' literature of the Amises and their ilk, instead inviting us to consider the dark truths behind English traditions as diverse and corrupt as backstreet abortion, music hall smut and cult religion. Meades is a writer of huge talent who deserves to be judged on a par with Celine, Burroughs and other bohemian chronaclers of the darker nights of the modern soul.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
By Sera69
Meades sets about his kitchen sink story of a dysfunctional family with a verve and talent unsurpassed in anything else i've read. It is, to be blunt, an awe inspiring piece of prose.

Spanning some 40 years in the lives of it's protaganists, Meades travels from back street abortionists to glorious redemtion as he narrates the story of the 'Firework makers' children; The offspring of one Guy Vallender part owner with his brother in a fireworks business based in the eponymous city of the title.

However, do not be mislead into thinking that this is one for the beach or that it is some kind of weighty rags-to-riches tome. It is a book that demands to be read and re-read many times. It has more invention in language and style; more ideas, scenes and plot that can comfortably be discussed here. Every page and chapter is a literary joy.

But... It will leave you, as Meades himself points out, needing to wash your hands once you finish it. For a while it will sit on your bookshelf like a leper, untouchable until you can steal yourself for another dip into the murk. It is not a dirty novel and filth is undoubtedtly the wrong word, too. It simply reeks of the unspeakable, the unimaginable, the unsayable. The Vallender's family secrets are like those of every family, just more so and more indescribably so.

Comical, convoluted and breathtaking and not for the faint of heart... Adjectives have not yet been invented to do justice to this novel. Perhaps i might suggest Meadesian?

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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER
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.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This book redefines most people's idea of a novel. It's so brilliantly written that you have to revisit it several times to get the whole meaning. I'll try to do a basic plot summary - this is Meades' theory of how AIDS hit the Western world. His theories are pin-sharp and, unless you're a well-trained epidemiologist, totally believable (though even now I think he might be right). He manages to combine true facts with fiction in such a seamless way that you have now idea what is fact and what is fiction. In the basest sense, the book is about a seriously dysfunctional family and their equally dysfunctional progeny, but the way the thing is written makes you think that it's all TRUE.
In summary, this is the book I would take to a desert island (actually, I've already done this, and it pisses on The Beach). Along with Ulysses (James Joyce). I never thought that a contemporary writer would equal Ulysses in this century, but I think that Mr Meades has done it. Absolutely superb. However, as in real life, some of the things in the book can turn your stomach. Several times over.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Meades at his impossible best.
Boy, is the reader expected to work hard! However, along with the byzantine complexities of the many characters and the plethora of picaresque sub-plots, is wonderful, outrageous,... Read more
Published 24 days ago by H. B. Winslow
4.0 out of 5 stars A dense evocation of the underbelly
If you are a fan of Jonathan Meades' gripping cerebral eviscerating documentaries of twentieth century architecture, then you'll love Pompey. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Ian C
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth the effort
A really outstanding effort from Meades, and that's just his knowledge of whisky. At the end of the book there is an imagined account of one of the male characters dying from... Read more
Published 22 months ago by C. Harman
2.0 out of 5 stars Think Ulysses
This is only the second novel in my life that I have given up reading part-way through. Like Ulysses, its main downfall is its utter inaccessibility. Read more
Published on 24 April 2011 by Mr. Mw Arnold
5.0 out of 5 stars Pompey 7 - Posh 0
On each page Jonathan squishes the blood-filled tick of life. Of all his books this one delivers the full force of the suited, unmuted, be-Shaded Meades voice. Read more
Published on 11 Mar 2011 by Mr. N. Foale
5.0 out of 5 stars Filth, fury, sex and pygmies. Torch singers, comedy and fowl.
Meades sets about his kitchen sink story of a dysfunctional family with a verve and talent unsurpassed in anything else i've read. Read more
Published on 30 July 2007 by Sera69
5.0 out of 5 stars The finest British writer since Anthony Burgess
This is a book by a man who takes words seriously and knows how to enjoy himself with them. Modern British writers tend to be all style over substance (Amis, Self, Welsh in... Read more
Published on 10 Nov 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars Idiosyncratic, bleak, filthy and immense fun
Meades' passions for architecture, atheism, gastronomy, the unmentionable underbelly of English society and kinky sex suffuse this marvellously gamey epic tale of some very nasty... Read more
Published on 10 May 2002 by Peter Fenelon
5.0 out of 5 stars A repulsively fascinating saga of English lowlife
Some books are all about style over subject matter, but, with Pompey, Meades manages to have it both ways. Read more
Published on 25 Jun 2001
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