14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Not a masterpiece, but a lot better than most bestsellers.,
This review is from: The Information (Paperback)
Be warned: this book is not everybody's cup of tea. An appreciation of black, irreverent humour is absolutely essential if you want to enjoy this novel and it is no wonder that a lot of people find it infuriating and outrageous. Everybody does seem to agree, however, that it is very well-written.
First of all let me tell you what the book is about. Protagonist Richard Tull is a pretentious, but sensationally unsuccesful novelist - plus a chainsmoker and an alcholic with a harrowing midlife crisis. His novels are so unreadable that nobody makes it past page 10 without developing at least one mysterious ailment. So when the bland, improbably inoffensive novels of his dim friend Gwyn hit the bestseller lists and Gwyn gets the celebrity, wealth and trophy wife that go with beststellerdom something snaps in Richard. He now has only one goal left in life: f*****g up Gwyn. Contemplating the several ways he can go about doing this, Richard runs into Steve, a screwed-up, sadistic drugdealer and as it happens not only his only fan but also the only reader able to make it past the first dozen or so pages. Of course this is a set-up for disaster, but of the comic not the tragic kind.
So, all this sounds like fun. And it is, several passages are downright laugh-out-loud funny, especially if you read them in context...
But the book is also dark and pessimistic. The London that provides most of its background is a crowded city full of filth and violence. Neither Richard nor Gwyn is likeable. The publishing world is a scream. And human is life is nothing, absolutely nothing from a cosmic point of view, as the author keeps pointing out. The low-life characters such as Steve, 13 and Darko are unconvincing and superfluous. But is the book depressing? Not to me; the exuberant wit, the great writing and the incisive original thinking save it from itself. Not a masterpiece, not even the best Amis ("Money" is better), but definitely a great deal more worthwhile than most bestsellers.
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Initial post: 6 Oct 2010 14:31:55 BDT
Scott F. Hannigan says:
It really annoys me when people say that the characters aren't likeable, as though being 'likeable' was some sort of a pre-requisite for a succesful novel. Are we all Pollyannas here?
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