Little Green Man Paperback – 4 Jul 2002
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Little Green Man, Simon Armitage's first novel, draws on the author's gritty Yorkshire upbringing to produce a vivid story of childhood nostalgia and adult disillusionment. Armitage's protagonist is the feckless Barney, thirtysomething, divorced, and alienated from his autistic son. His only passion are his mates, "the old friends, the ones you were brought up with, who go further back than you remember, who've been there since the beginning. You didn't choose them--they're like family. Like blood." When Barney unearths what turns out to be a priceless relic from his childhood days--the "little green man" of the novel's title--he gets back in touch with his old gang: Winkie, Pompus, Stubbs and Tony Football. Desperate to "turn back the clock" and relive their childhood escapades, Barney proposes a game of truth or dare. Each member of the gang "dares" another. Failure to complete a dare leads to disqualification. The winner walks away with the priceless little green man. As the stakes get higher, friendships begin to dissolve as hairy women are seduced, sheep are slaughtered and excrement eaten. In the process the gang reveal some of their deepest secrets, from abuse to impotence, and as the game begins to get out of hand, Barney himself has to confront the responsibilities of adulthood. The problem is that the novel's brutally frank portrayal of both Barney and his gang is so convincing that it becomes difficult to feel any sympathy for anyone. Little Green Man is a tough, uncompromising debut novel, but many fans of Armitage may feel it lacks the originality of his highly acclaimed poetry. --Jerry Brotton --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
'Sensitive not sentimental... real humour, horror, tension and tenderness' Mirror --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
I'd say give it a go. The novel opens with an exquisitely atmospheric prologue, worth the cover price alone for any poetry fan, before we come down from the attic straight into prosy blokeland. Armitage then quickly starts to draw his audience into a risky game of his own to parallel that in the plot.
The man telling the story, Barney, seems like a nice enough guy, thirty-odd, Northern, a bit like Armitage himself really. Ha. One by one, our assumptions about Barney are deftly slid from under our feet. Maybe he's not quite so nice after all, his laddishness more destructive than charming. Maybe his ex-wife can give us more insight in a casual remark than Barney can muster in a whole book. (And maybe we would be wise not to take Barney's word for it on her iciness . . .) But then, maybe he's had a harder time of it than we first realised. Maybe he's starting to learn from his mistakes and grow up at last. It's when we find out that the git hasn't only been lying to his mates, he's been lying to us too, and yet we're still hoping for his redemption, that we grasp the subtlety of Armitage's achievement.
I could still have done with a bit less of the spangles and curly wurlies though . . .
That's all there is to the plot really, and the dares aren't hugely interesting. The interest lies not in the plot but in the life, or rather non-life, of the empty and unendearing central character. It's made the more interesting, when one realises that he is not unusual: he is you and me.
It's about emptiness and anomie -- and one's search for meaning, as an adult, both in memory and in material things. It's about the fragility of relationships and feeling like an alien in one's own land. Behind the trinkets and bangles we console ourselves with -- a motorbike, drink, money, the sun -- underneath there's not much else: only disappointment. Every character's life is squalid and meaningless -- yet they are ordinary people. Neither can solace be gained from the ostensibly big things, like parenthood or friendship: in the end they are all empty. The central character's parenting of his autistic son is an extended metaphor for the routine, ritual futility of parenthood, and of life.
It's immaculately well written -- direct, uncliched and with a voice authentic to the central character. It's a touch derivative in concept and in style, though -- Dennis Potter in Blue Remembered Hills meets Nick Hornby in Fever Pitch. Having said that, it has neither the verve of Potter nor the belly laughs of Hornby (though there are some smiles). But In a market where rubbish is routinely hyped, this is an outstanding book.
The main theme of the book is a great one, and that was the hook for me. Just how low were the characters going to go and what would they do to each other next. But the characters themselves were never explored in much depth. Armitage being clever with the theme of exploration through their nicknames but nothing else led to little which you could latch on to.
The constantly shifting style also became irritating. At times this almost came across more as a series of linked prose poems than a novel. With different approaches and subjects being tried every chapter. The fire chapter is a classic example, and does start in a way which is very similar to Armitage's Book of Matches collection.
All other reviewers so far have commented on the ending. I was also dissapointed with the pace that it was delivered. Almost as if the author had run out of time or energy or both and banged away at the last few chapters when more depth would have rounded this off nicely.
I don't know, perhaps I'm just geting too old fashioned and should take on board the modern, minimal style of this book. But it just left me cold.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A novel by a poet - Simon Armitage is a great writer and this novel is full of humour and insight into the weirdness of human behaviour. Read morePublished on 18 Mar. 2014 by J. Webb
This book was fantastic. The best book I've read this year. Armitage may have said his prose wouldn't be poetic. Read morePublished on 28 Dec. 2007 by G. Saunders
An interesting book which I wasn't sure about from the start as I thought it may have been more of a 'boy's' book. However I quickly got into it. Read morePublished on 12 Jun. 2007 by SJSmith
The prize-winning poet of the north, Simon Armitage has written a truly intelligent gem in 'Little Green Man'. Read morePublished on 20 July 2006 by Gizmo
Funny and caring at times, yet dark and gritty at the same time. Armitage proves to be just as talented with prose as he does with his poetry, as the first chapter in which Barney... Read morePublished on 26 Jun. 2006 by Hunchback
I was a little disappointed the first time I read this with the ending. If I'm honest it left me feeling depressed. Read morePublished on 26 Feb. 2005 by Mark A. English
I finished this book last night, and was a little disappointed with the end, however it is definatly worth the read. Read morePublished on 24 July 2004
I read this book in quick succession with Nick Hornby's About a Boy - which surpassed my expectations - and this, it has to be said, is not as satisfying - but we're comparing... Read morePublished on 8 Nov. 2002 by John Self
I thoroughly enjoyed this book---the style is brilliant, and the plot engrossing, with a conclusion of unexpected piognancy. Read morePublished on 26 Aug. 2002