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2007 Through A Lens Darkly,
This review is from: Born Yesterday: The News as a Novel (Hardcover)
Completed in February 2008, the book is a collage of events and coincidences culled from the UK news pages of summer 2007, in particular the abduction of Madeleine McCann and the transfer of power from Tony Blair to Gordon Brown. Gordon Burn's previous novels spun a web of detail about the British landscape and its fallen celebrities (from showbiz and crime) that weaved a rich portrait of Britain in the present and recent past. He takes this approach a stage further here, looking at the near present tense of the writing. He crams in detail from media reported news from 2007; there is a richness of detail but the casualty is the crafted complex prose that painted tangible characters and was so central to his previous fictional works. The writing here has none of the depth of his earlier novels (probably due to the speed with which he completed the book). There is really no character painting here (no fictional characters as such) and this is the book's loss. To compensate Burn brings together some powerful ideas around celebrity, glamour, death, and life as a media icon, harking back to 'Alma Cogan'. 'Born Yesterday' is more a cultural critique than a novel, but an engaging read anyway. I personally hope to see Gordon Burn return to his more fictionalised take on the shifting social landscape of Britain that serves as such good starting point for his observational writing.