Imperialist nonsense

2 02 2012

Imperial Bedrooms by Bret Easton Ellis

Clay is a successful screenwriter, middle-aged and disaffected; he’s in LA to cast his new movie. However, this trip is anything other than professional, and he’s soon drifting through a louche and long-familiar circle – a world largely populated by the band of infamous teenagers first introduced in Less Than Zero. But his debauched reverie is about to be interrupted by a violent plot for revenge and Clay’s seemingly endless proclivity for betrayal and exploitation looks set to land him somewhere darker and more ominous than ever before.

Yes it is debauched and violent and very Easton Ellis. But unfortunately, the plotting could not be much weaker, the characters more feeble and the narrative more plodding. Really poor. And can’t believe the Guardian said this about it:

‘Easton Ellis adds the playful self-advertisements of Philip Roth to the ambiguously complicit social reportage of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Imperial Bedrooms ranks with his best exercises in the latter register, teeming with sharp details of a narcissistic generation’

Comparing this tosh to Roth and F Scott Fitzgerald? Afraid not.


The art of theft

22 09 2011

Theft: a love story by Peter Carey

Theft is the story of Michael “Butcher” Boone, an Australian artist whose career is having an early and comprehensive twilight. He is guardian, babysitter and caretaker for his “damaged two hundred and twenty pound brother”, Hugh. “There is always Hugh,” Butcher says, “and you cannot take a slash or park the truck without considering him.” As the novel opens, Butcher is fresh out of jail for robbing his ex-wife of his own paintings, paintings that became hers when the marriage ended. Exiled to a remote house owned by a fussy former patron, Butcher is trying to get his career back on track, avoid his creditors and manage Hugh, when – on a stormy, flooding evening – he receives a visit from the mysterious Marlene, described by Hugh as “a GAMINE with tiny boobies and a silk dress you could have fitted in your pocket with your hanky”.

Through marriage to Olivier Liebovitz, Marlene is the holder of the droit moral, the hereditary right to authenticate paintings, in this case those of Olivier’s dead father, Jacques Liebovitz. Somehow, Butcher and Hugh’s farmer neighbour has recently acquired a Liebovitz of mysterious provenance, and Marlene arrives, a vision in Manolo Blahniks tramping through knee-deep mud, to put a validating stamp on it, immediately sending its worth into the stratosphere.

– from the Guardian review of the book.

The tale is told through the alternating narratives of Butcher and his brother Hugh and both become involved, following the arrival of Marlene, in what seems to be an elaborate and lucrative scam which takes them to Tokyo and New York. Both characters are terrifically portrayed and Carey’s writing is just excellent. The novel is also a great exploration of the real and the fake in art and in life. It’s a thoroughly entertaining read and well worth a go.

I really don’t want to read Kay Burley’s book

7 04 2011

First Ladies by Kay Burley

It isn’t published until May but I think I’ve heard enough already.



According to Steven Fielding “Kay Burley’s book betrays a venerable tradition”. This is probably the kindest thing that is said about it:

Sky News’s Kay Burley probably does not realise it, but her debut novel First Ladies forms part of a once-vibrant tradition within English literature: political women writing about politics.

For the most part writing about politics, as in real life, has been a man’s job. Disraeli and Trollope set the mould. But a few members of what Disraeli would undoubtedly have called “the fairer sex” have made a distinctive overlooked contribution to the canon.

Some will make snide fun of the limitations of Burley’s prose style. Others shall speculate on whom the “suave PM Julian Jenson” and “sexy TV reporter Isla McGovern” might be based. The most culturally and politically significant aspect of Burley’s novel, however, is the sorry place it leaves this once-noble literary tradition.

I like political fiction. I really don’t like the sound of this.

%d bloggers like this: