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My Name Is Legion Hardcover – 1 Apr 2004

2.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Hutchinson; First Edition edition (1 April 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0091795354
  • ISBN-13: 978-0091795351
  • Product Dimensions: 16.6 x 4 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,815,891 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

The "God question" remains a thorny one for the leading protagonists of My Name is Legion, AN Wilson's impressive Waugh-esque satire of the Fourth Estate. Previously, God's Funeral surveyed what Wilson referred to as the "collective nervous breakdown" that occurred in the Victorian era. God was dead and we, with our new fangled rationalism, had killed him, to paraphrase Nietzsche. The title, from Mark's gospel, provides the name of the newspaper at the centre of the novel, The Legion, (an evil rag that peddles celebrity tittle-tattle and denounces asylum-seekers and "Belgian bureaucrats" for "tampering with the good British Banana") but it also alludes to one of the characters, Peter/Tuli, an unbalanced south-London teenager troubled by voices (if not actually devils).

Matters of faith are central to The Legion's grotesquely immoral African proprietor, Lennox Mark. The newspaper man wants to be rid of his belief in God and his nemesis, Father Vyvian Chell, a troublesome priest, who is campaigning, in the military sense of the word, for the overthrow of a corrupt regime that keeps Mark's business empire afloat. (General Bindiga of Mark's native Zinariya--whom Chell schooled and once supported--is always assured a good press in The Legion.) Both men (Chell and Mark), not incidentally, since this is a richly plotted novel, could be Peter's father--his mother Mercy doesn't know for sure.

Wilson is a former literary editor for the Evening Standard and this novel is something of a Roman à clef, or as he's still a columnist with that newspaper, possibly, a 500-odd page resignation letter. The vipers pit that is Fleet Street (or more precisely in the book, Bermondsey) is unflinchingly portrayed--from the machinations of the owner, his wife and her lesbian lover, right down to the familiar peccadilloes of hacks and the obligatory unrequited office romance: Sinclo's puppyish infatuation with his arts editor colleague Rachel. Comparisons with Scoop are inevitable, perhaps even invited--LP Watson, the paper's jaded, adulterous and utterly corrupted columnist is a former travel writer and poet whose book Amazonians, an account of a South American canoe journey, sounds not far off John Boot's Waste of Time. (And is the use of those initials intended to ring a few alarm bells too?) But Wilson's it's-all-gone-to-hell-in-a-handcart vision of the media and Britain, "governed" here by a God-bothering, honours-dispensing Prime Minister with estuary diction, is Amisian (Kingsley rather than Martin) in its withering despair. And, arguably, the novel is all the more engaging for it, but there are moments when it its sentiments appear to veer towards the very why-oh-why journalism it wants to mock. --Travis Elborough


"I loved it" -- Philip Hensher, The Spectator

'He grapples with the concerns both of the heart and the intellect and it is grippingly readable’ -- Times Literary Supplement

‘A big, broad, sweeping book, as disturbing as it is funny.' -- Guardian

‘A wonderful, thrilling depiction of media manipulation, corruption, tolerance and promiscuity. It’s so good, and so wise, it hurts' -- Frances Fyfield, The Week

‘Brilliantly inventive… A disturbing and highly original novel’ -- Stephen Glover, Daily Mail

‘Dickensian in scope, packed with perversity, filth and gutter lowlife. Its melodrama never fails to entertain’ -- Books of the Year, Daily Telegraph

‘Splendid and thoroughly enjoyable…Very funny and deeply serious at the same time’ -- The Scotsman

‘Terrifyingly funny’ -- Sean French, Independent

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Format: Hardcover
Dear oh dear - or should that be why oh why? What has happened to A.N. Wilson, the elegant author of those soul-searching Lampitt novels? This new novel is so poisonous, you can almost feel it fizzing and hissing in your hands. The reader requires a very strong stomach to tackle this book. Every scatological reference the smutty minded adolescent's imagination can conjure up is here. There were pages I had to skip because I began to feel a bit queasy. Had I been sensible I would have skipped the entire book, but I was seduced by the good reviews. I kept thinking it was going to get better in a minute. It didn't. It got steadily worse. I had forgotten that good reviews have nothing to do with the book and everything to do with the conviviality of a long lunch with the reviewer.
The book is about an evil newspaper owner, Lennox Mark, who tries to destroy the life of a holy monk. From chapter one, the plot plunges into silliness and is never rescued. Just to give you a taste, the story opens with a young mugger who has just half-murdered a boy, breaking into the house of a rich woman. When he tries to attack the woman, she takes him up into her bathroom, whips out a slave collar that she just happens to have lying around, puts it round the mugger's neck, and orders him to clean her house. He obediently does so, and she offers him a permanent job as house-boy. Yeah, right.
Plot aside, the novel's main problem is that all the characters are completely divorced from humanity. None of the people come to life so there is no emotional force to engage our interest. The monstrous Lennox Mark, the grotesque Mary Much, the Saintly Rachel Pearl et al, are one dimensional cartoons. As an admirer of Wilson's early novels, I was surprised to see how sloppy and slangy his writing has become. I think this book was meant to expose the sorry state of the nation. All Wilson succeeds in exposing is the futility of his latest foray into fiction.
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Format: Paperback
Lucy Austen is entirely justified in her irritation with the grotesque characters and blind-alley roman a clef connotations of this book. In places the writing is unbelievably bad, and could easily have been saved by the services of a competent editor, e.g. on page 317 - "while he chewed the crisp fat of the lamb cutlet with his fingers". Why not use his teeth, like everybody else? And on page 339, you cannot see at first glance where one list ends and another begins - "By the time Vivyan had finished showing her round the house, the church, the garden, the watch had disappeared."

The "hinge" comes on page 300, in a funeral oration. All that follows is a working-out of all that went before. This working-out is reasonably neat but ultimately unaffecting, partly because it is impossible to care sufficiently deeply about any of the characters, and partly because the plot is driven by a series of unlikely and unbelievable coincidences. There are loose ends left hanging, although no reader is likely to be concerned to have them followed up. At one point someone we have never heard of before is connected with a crime he did not commit, on the basis of DNA evidence. We never find out the explanation. This is subtlety taken too far, particularly as DNA evidence could have solved at a stroke the central conundrum of the plot, but is conveniently forgotten in that context. Similarly, it is a matter of indifference to me (and I suspect to most readers) whether the materialist and philistine newspaper proprietor eventually repents his sins. And if he has repented, why does he still eat continuously and shout obscenities? No reader will care.
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