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on 11 October 2011
Lad Lit, a genre to conjure with. Unfortunately, rather than conjuring up pleasant images, the genre is a field of literacy landmines. For every Mike Gayle or Tony Parsons, there are a hundred also-rans producing turgid writing with unlikable characters. Speaking of which, here is my review for Tim Lott's `White City Blue'.

`White City' follows loathsome Frankie Blue as he starts a 30 something life crisis. Being an estate agent automatically makes you uneasy about the character, but Lott does nothing to make him seem nicer; instead revelling in the stereotypes of the late 90s estate agent getting fat off the easy pickings of booming Britain. Frank has come to the point were he no longer seems to like his childhood friends and instead wishes to settle down. Perhaps these pals will appeal to the reader? No chance, a sorry bunch of blokes indeed. Some unpleasant, others too soft. The only likable character is quiet throughout, only to reveal a secret at the end that is a little sad - why waste so many years of your life?

Lott has written a book of its time. A badly dated 1999 novel that acts like a reflux action for all those unpleasant men that could not get over the fact the `Loaded' generation was over. It may have had the smacking of truth on occasion; people do grow apart, but why wrap up these messages in such a tasteless package? If there are two things I don't appreciate its people with bad manners and people who navel gaze. Unfortunately, `White City Blues' is all about bad mannered navel gazers.
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on 5 April 2001
. . . BUT, I loved reading about him and I really cared what happened to him. More than that, it wasn't so much what happened to him but who he became. That is, to my mind, largely what this book is about. Frankie is trying to become someone he can like and admire. This is why he is so desperate to hold on to his friends from childhood, who he sees as a reflection of himself, and why he is determined to marry his upmarket girlfriend even though he is not really sure if he loves her.
Frankie isn't sure if he loves anyone, he doesn't even know what love is. It was his awareness of this and his growing suspicion that this was a regrettable way to be, that made the book so moving for me. I hope it isn't a true portrayal of what goes on inside all men, but I do believe that it represents some . . . in fact, I'm pretty sure I've dated one or two!!
I laughed a lot, I spend entire tube journeys with an unsuppressible grin branded on my face. At other times I felt so sad for them all that I wanted them to be real so that I could comfort them. (What a soppy girlie thing to say!)
There is much to learn from this book, not all pleasant, and a lot to discuss with friends who read it too.
Buy it, read it, pass it around!
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on 6 July 2000
This is a terrific account of male friendship and the ties of habit which keep us together long after we cease to have much in common. It pulls off the rare trick of keeping our sympathies with an increasingly unlikeable central character. It is peppered with laugh-out-loud moments and maintains a witty tone throughout some increasingly dark events. What really distinguishes it is that remains an easy read - I skated through it - while dealing with weighty topics. As good as High Fidelity and far more poignant.
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on 16 December 2000
Despite popular belief, Tim Lotte's award winning debut novel "White City Blue" isn't a redundant read for those who loved Nick Hornby's hugely entertaining bestseller "High Fidelity". It has a validity of its own which has to be read to be appreciated. Behind the fast and zany dialogue is something serious under scrutiny, namely the quality and premise of male bonding and friendships which defy comprehension and compete with conjugal relationships between men and women. Although Lotte doesn't offer a definitive answer, he suggests that these buddy type relationships are really more about self than about relating. Is this not an unfair indictment and taking a jaundiced view of a phenomenon experienced by half the world's population and understood by none ? After all, Frankie's friendship with Nodge does survive a surprising revelation which only serves to underscore the ambivalence of Lotte's position and leaves us plenty of room to ponder over a subject that's complex and perhaps forever defies examination. A wonderfully entertaining book. Highly recommended.
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on 14 December 2000
This book was well written with a clever story line that brought a smile to my face whilst still being realistic and moving at times the charachters are well portrayed. I highly reccomend this book
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on 15 June 2000
Tim Lott is a gifted writer who excels at imbuing his work with a sense of place. His evocation of suburban West London is superb, and yet it is apparently populated by walking stereotypes who seem to have wandered in from an ITV drama doing its best to be contemporary. Where is the keen eye for the nuances of class that he demonstrated so brilliantly in "The Scent of Dried Roses" ?
For the most part "White City Blue" fails to engage, amd yet the evocation of August 14th 1984 when the friends stood at the peak of youth shimmers with the potential of young blokes with it all in front of them. Lott's gift for conveying nostalgia, sentimentality and loss is undeniable: there is a rich seam to be mined here, and he should consider dropping the forced narratives and unconvincingly drawn characters that wnder through "White City Blue".
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on 28 May 2000
Not impressed at all, and can't see how it got all those rave reviews on the covers. "Sizzling"? Huh? "Compares with Nick Hornby and Martin Amis, and succeeds better than either"? Afraid that it doesn't. It's plodding and dull, each turn of the plot (what there is) is grinding obvious and all the characters are stereotypes, defined by their jobs, what they wear and even their damned *surnames* (Burden, Diamond, Tree...) in case you really need things spelling out.
Basically it reads like a TV script, a lumpen This Life for guys who read Esquire because they think it's more sophisticated than Loaded, with set pieces that have no purpose except to hammer home what has already been stated earlier. It's all so one-track, prosaic, unremarkable. There are no surprises except that the token woman in the book marries the narrator. (Although you never get anywhere near understanding why an intelligent woman "with long, terrific legs" would have anything to do with a dullard like Frankie Blue.) There's really nothing here, just a dull book about dull people. Nothing to make you think, nothing to get under your skin, nothing that goes any way to making you feel what it's like to be on the point when you're wondering what life is all about and whether the values and pleasures that got you through your 20s are really worth holding onto for the rest of your life. To compare it with Nick Hornby is stretching it, to compare it with even early Martin Amis way off the mark.
See if you can track down Tristan Hawkins' Pepper for a book that really captures the sweet fragile insanity of living and loving in London, that truly captures the warp and weave of life in a cultural and moral void. Or Geoff Dyer's Paris Trance. Or anything by Geoff Nicholson or Jonathon Coe. Because if this and Tony Parson's Man and Boy are the best the Post New Lad genre can come up with then it's sunk from the start.
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on 23 July 1999
Why Tim Lott is not on top of the best seller lists I do not know. Stupid people may dismiss him as a Nick Hornby wannabe (if they have heard of him that is) but in truth T.L. beats him on all fronts. His writing is edgier, more convincing more authentic, more closely observed and simply more involving. I want to grab strangers by the lapels and scream "Read his books!!" His observations of male friendship and being a teenager in the early-mid eighties is spot on (NOT Loaded generation p-lease). This novel, along with his searing autobiography (Scent of Dried Roses) convinces me that T.L. is one of the better writers in England today....
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on 20 March 2003
Frankie Blue's long-time friends from his schooldays seem straightforward to begin with:don't we all know a cocky , loud Tony and a sad-bloke loner like Colin ? But there's much more depth to Tim Lott's characters - certainly more so than writers like Mike Gayle and Nick Hornby - which comes out as you read on .
Their conversations in the pub are innane and shallow at times, but very funny , with some suprisingly deep and very touching bits too . The part about Colin at school , and his home life is particularly sad - he's my favourite character in the book .
A great can't-put-it-down read !
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on 14 February 2000
'Fraid it's not nearly as good as that. These are unloveable, unlikeable characters and you never care what happens to them - it's obvious they have nothing in common and impossible to believe they would be hanging out together 15 years later (bullys and the bullied rarely become great pals). Lott is not a bad writer (although everything is spelt out - Vronky 'looks inside people' for a living so, guess what, she's perceptive about Frankie's terrible relationships) but he's nowhere near Hornby (who himself is only OK) and certainly not very literary. Fine if you're on a plane though.
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