James Meek's reading in Blackwell's, Edinburgh last night showed his audience that the only thing more exciting than reading his books is listening to him be so articulate about them. We Are Now Beginning Our Descent (one of my favourite title choices in ages) is completely different from The People's Act of Love, but likewise says something original and true about how people operate now, in a war-fatigued, globalised world. It was great to see the range of readers the book has attracted, judging from the other audience members at Meek's gig yesterday - everyone from retired Edinburgh literati to young immigrants (and his sister, artist Joanna Kane).
Yet it isn't only a political novel or a war novel - it describes what it's like for a disillusioned man to alienate himself from his friends (spectacularly), become convinced he's in love, allow his emotions to fly him to rural America and then have his expectations thrown for a loop by the strange, complicated woman he elected to fall for. The book asks fascinating questions: how many different ways are there to sell out? When we feel things most strongly, is it because we're deceiving ourselves more than usual? This fairly miserable character, Adam Kellas, has a strange pull on the reader, and it all rings weirdly true.