When I was trying to write a novel ten years ago I thought it was immensely cute and interesting to refer to characters obliquely, rather than explaining clearly who and what I was talking about. Stephen Fry does this throughout The Liar in the italicised accounts of the hero and his mentor on a spying adventure. In fact it is not interesting - it merely confuses and irritates.
Against this one has to place the magnificent main opening chapter set in Adrian's public school. An adolescent crush has never been expressed in more fabulously funny purple prose:
"Cartwright of the sapphire eyes and golden hair, Cartwright of the Limbs and Lips: he was Petrarch's Laura, Milton's Lycidas, Catullus's Lesbia, Tennyson's Hallam, Shakespeare's fair boy and dark lady, the moon's Endymion. Cartwright was Garbo's salary, the National Gallery, he was cellophane: he was the tender trap, the blank unholy surprise of it all and the bright golden haze on the meadow: he was honey-honey, sugar-sugar, chirpy chirpy cheep-cheep and his baby-love: the voice of the turtle could be heard in the land, there were angels dining at the Ritz and a nightingale sang in Berkeley Square."
The novel then hops around between distant past and more recent past, with varying degrees of success.
If only Stephen Fry had stuck to school boys and rent boys, the subjects about which he writes most convincingly, he could have out-Waughed Evelyn Waugh.