Final Demands Hardcover – 4 Mar 2010
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About the Author
Frederic Raphael has written more than 20 novels, five volumes of short stories, and biographies of Byron and of W. Somerset Maughan, amongst his prolific work as a writer. He also won an Academy award for screenwriting and wrote the screenplay for the acclaimed film Eyes Wide Shut. Also published by JR Books: Glittering Prizes and Fame and Fortune
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This time around, it appears - to the best of my recollection about Fame and Fortune - that the adventures Adam gets into are more interesting than previously: his relationship with his brilliant but emotionally complex daughter, an encounter with his old tutor, an evening with an even cleverer Jewish writer. You'd've thought that the ability of this latter character had been sufficiently well drawn-in by the fact that we're told that he's next-in-line for the Nobel Prize, but - in case we didn't know what that means - the lily is gilded by him using uncommon words like veridical, maieutic and superbity (the last of which Adam Morris points out isn't really a word, as if to demonstrate his overarchingly superior intellect). This is a novel that appears to need footnotes, in order to fully appreciate the donnish quips which - as mentioned on p78 - give us "a chance to applaud [our] own alertness". As it is, we feel pleased to recognize that, for example, when someone on the previous page refers to a Michael who had to "buy his own furniture", and who "combed his hair in public", they're referring to Michael Heseltine - or, more accurately, to the comments about him by Alan Clark and William Whitelaw, respectively.
Such perceptiveness is a quality to be prized throughout this book; later on, when Adam is interrupted in his compositions by a phone call from the successful but shallow Mike Clode, he answers it with (p231) "Hello. That must be the Person from Porlock. Thanks for interrupting me." Mike - who was clearly more interested in becoming a media star than scholarship while at Cambridge - believes Adam when he jokingly tells him later on that Porlock is a film company, thereby missing the reference to the unwelcome visitor who (as is tolerably well-known) interrupted Coleridge when he was writing "Kubla Khan" and hence rendered it forever incomplete.
I enjoyed reading this tale - allusive references, big words and all - since it appears to bring Adam's story to a close in an emotionally satisfying and interesting way. I was however surprised to see that The Glittering Prizes (which is probably Raphael's best-known novel) didn't appear in the impressive list of the author's works in my edition of this book - neither under Novels, Short Stories, Screenplays, Notebooks or (ho ho ho) Autobiography.
The Man for One Season (Autumn 1952), Adam Morris, whose prescience so neatly intersects with his author's twenty-twenty retrospection, continues on his self-aggrandisingly witty way, to observe the world of his maker's plenty through a partly satirical glass-half-empty gaze. There is in this offering more politics, Blair rather than Thatcher being the totem of derision and genuflection, but it is handled too simplistically, although the author tries hard to cover a binary world-view with the protagonist's artificially tolerant pluralism. There is also an awkward sojourn into an Ian McEwen Saturday that ill-fits the rest of the novel and is only mirror-deep amongst the glittering shallows. Thankfully, the train to Dover Beach has been cancelled (the poem is referenced in the text, always a worryingly literary allusion) although the destination name still blazes unnecessarily bright above a very Londony London platform.
The dialogue remains as clear and clever-clever as before, although the mood is darker, but the intention remains just as opaque. Is this satire, comedic social record, Bildungsroman, roman à clef, or literary soufflé? Who knows? but it is sure to give enormous pleasure to the 2:1 Eng. Lit. brigade.
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