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Saturday 01.09.12 |



Francis Spufford
The trouble with atheists

Adam Mars-Jones
A journey through Zadie Smiths London

Colm Tibn
Christopher Hitchenss last battle

Pat Barker
Regeneration and my missing father

James Meek
What makes Anna Karenina so special

Fiona MacCarthy
The politics of the pre-Raphaelites


2 Review Saturday Guardian 01.09.12

Francis Spuord has heard all the arguments against Christianity. He understands the objections of Dawkins and Hitchens. And he realises its a guess as to whether theres a God or not. But he still goes to church, and oers a defence of his faith

Emotional rescue
which is not easy to do. It must take a deft delicacy at operating on a tiny scale, like tting a whole model railway layout into an attach case. No: the really painful message our daughter will receive is that were embarrassing. For most people who arent New Atheists, or old atheists, and have no passion invested in the subject, either negative or positive, believers arent weird because were wicked. Were weird because were inexplicable; because, when theres no necessity for it that anyone sensible can see, weve committed ourselves to a set of awkward and absurd attitudes that obtrude, that stick out against the background of modern life, and not in some important or respectworthy or principled way, either. Believers are people who try to insert Jee-zus into conversations at parties; who put themselves down, with writhings of unease, for perfectly normal human behaviour; who are constantly trying to create a solemn hush that invites a fart, a hiccup, a bit of subversion. Believers are people who, on the rare occasions when you have to listen to them, like at a funeral or a wedding, seize the opportunity to pour the liquidised content of a primary-school nativity play into your earhole, apparently not noticing that childhood is over. And as well as being childish, and abject, and solemn, and awkward, we voluntarily associate ourselves with an old-fashioned, mildewed orthodoxy, an Authority with all its authority gone. Nothing is so sad sad from the style point of view as the mainstream taste of the day before yesterday. What goes on inside believers is mysterious. So far as it can be guessed at it appears to be a kind of anxious pretending, a kind of continual, nervous resistance to reality. We dont seem to get it that the magic in Harry Potter, the rings and swords and elves in fantasy novels, the power-ups in video games, the ghouls and ghosts of Halloween, are all, like, just for fun. We try to take them seriously; or rather, we take our own particular subsection of them seriously. We commit the bizarre category error of claiming that our goblins, ghouls, Flying Spaghetti Monsters

y daughter has just turned six. Some time over the next year or so, she will discover that her parents are weird. Were weird because we go to church. This means as she gets older therell be voices telling her what it means, getting louder and louder until by the time shes a teenager theyll be shouting right in her ear. It means that we believe in a load of bronzeage absurdities. That we fetishise pain and suering. That we advocate wishy-washy niceness. That were too stupid to understand the irrationality of our creeds. That we build absurdly complex intellectual structures on the marshmallow foundations of a fantasy. That were savagely judgmental. That wed free murderers to kill again. That were infantile and cant do without an illusory daddy in the sky. That we destroy the spontaneity and hopefulness of children by implanting a sick mythology in young minds. That we teach people to hate their own natural selves. That we want people to be afraid. That we want people to be ashamed. That we have an imaginary friend, that we believe in a sky pixie; that we prostrate ourseves before a god who has the reality-status of Santa Claus. That we prefer scripture to novels, preaching to storytelling, certainty to doubt, faith to reason, censorship to debate, silence to eloquence, death to life. But hey, thats not the bad news. Those are the objections of people who care enough about religion to object to it. Or to rent a set of recreational objections from Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens. As accusations, they may be a hodge-podge, but at least they assume theres a thing called religion which looms with enough denition and signicance to be detested. In fact theres something truly devoted about the way that Dawkinsites manage to extract a stimulating hobby from the thought of other peoples belief. Some of them even contrive to feel oppressed by the Church of England,

Theres something truly devoted about the way Dawkinsites manage to extract a stimulating hobby from the thought of other peoples belief

are really there, o the page and away from the CGI rendering programs. Star Trek fans and vampire wanabes have nothing on us. We actually get down and worship. We get down on our actual knees, bowing and scraping in front of the empty space where we insist our Spaghetti Monster can be found. No wonder that we work so hard to fend o common sense. Our ngers must be in our ears all the time la la la, I cant hear you just to keep out the sound of the real world. The funny thing is that, to me, its belief that involves the most uncompromising attention to the nature of things of which you are capable. Belief demands that you dispense with illusion after illusion, while contemporary common sense requires continual, uy pretending pretending that might as well be systematic, its so thoroughly incentivised by our culture. Take the well-known slogan on the atheist bus in London. I know, I know, thats an utterance by the hardcore hobbyists of unbelief, but in this particular case theyre pretty much stating the ordinary wisdom of everyday disbelief. The atheist bus says: Theres probably no God. So stop worrying and enjoy your life. All right: which word here is the questionable one, the aggressive one, the one that parts company with recognisable human experience so fast it doesnt even have time to wave goodbye? It isnt probably. New Atheists arent claiming anything outrageous when they say that there probably isnt a God. In fact they arent claiming anything substantial at all, because, really, how would they know? Its as much of a guess for them as it is for me. No, the word that oends against realism here is enjoy. Im sorry enjoy your life? Im not making some kind of neo-puritan objection to enjoyment. Enjoyment is lovely. Enjoyment is great. The more enjoyment the better. But enjoyment is one emotion. To say that life is to be enjoyed (just enjoyed) is like saying that mountains should only have summits, or that all colours should be purple, or that all plays should be by Shakespeare. This really is a bizarre category error. But not necessarily an innocent

one. Not necessarily a piece of uy pretending that does no harm. The implication of the bus slogan is that enjoyment would be your natural state if you werent being worried by us believers and our hellre preaching. Take away the malignant threat of Godtalk, and you would revert to continuous pleasure, under cloudless skies. Whats so wrong with this, apart from it being total bollocks? Well, in the rst place, that it buys a bill of goods, sight unseen, from modern marketing. Given that human life isnt and cant be made up of enjoyment, it is in effect accepting a picture of human life in which those pieces of living where easy enjoyment is more likely become the only pieces that are visible. If you based your knowledge of the human species exclusively on adverts, youd think that the normal condition of humanity was to be a good-looking single person between 20 and 35, with excellent muscle-denition and/or an excellent gure, and a large disposable income. And youd think the same thing if you got your information exclusively from the atheist bus, with the minor dierence, in this case, that the man from the Gold Blend couple has a tiny

Keeping the ame of faith alive St Pauls Cathedral. Inset below: Richard Dawkins Richard Dawkins could desire. I think note the verb think that I was not being targeted with a timely rendition of the Clarinet Concerto by a deity who micro-manages the cosmos and causes all the events in it to happen (which would make said deity an immoral scumbag, considering the nature of many of those events). I think that Mozart, two centuries earlier, had succeeded in creating a beautiful and accurate report of an aspect of reality. I think that the reason reality is that way that it is in some ultimate sense merciful as well as being a set of physical processes all running along on their own without hope of appeal, all the way up from quantum mechanics to the relative velocity of galaxies by way of blundering, low and horridly cruel biology (Darwin) is that the universe is sustained by a continual and innitely patient act of love. I think that love keeps it in being. I think that I dont have to posit some corny interventionist prod from a meddling sky-fairy to account for my merciful ability to notice things a little better, when God is continually present everywhere anyway, undemonstratively underlying all cafs, all cassettes, all composers. Thats what I think. But its all secondary. It all comes limping along behind my emotional assurance that there was mercy, and I felt it. And so the argument about whether the ideas are true or not, which is the argument that people mostly expect to have about religion, is also secondary for me. No, I cant prove it. I dont know that any of it is true. I dont know if theres a God. (And neither do you, and neither does Professor Dawkins, and neither does anybody. It isnt the kind of thing you can know. It isnt a knowable item.) But then, like every human being, I am not in the habit of entertaining only those emotions I can prove. Id be an unrecognisable oddity if I did. Emotions can certainly be misleading: they can fool you into believing stu that is denitely, demonstrably untrue. Yet emotions are also our indispensable tool for navigating, for feeling our way through, the much larger domain of stu that isnt susceptible to proof or disproof, that isnt checkable against the physical universe. We dream, hope, wonder, sorrow, rage, grieve, delight, surmise, joke, detest; we form such unprovable conjectures as novels or clarinet concertos; we imagine. And religion is just a part of that, in one sense. Its just one form of imagining, absolutely functional, absolutely human-normal. It would seem perverse, on the face of it, to propose that this one particular manifestation of imagining should be treated as outrageous, should be excised if (which is doubtful) we can manage it. But then, this is where the perception that religion is weird comes in. Its got itself established in our culture, relatively recently, that the emotions involved in religious belief must be dierent from the ones involved in all the other kinds of continuous imagining, hoping, dreaming, and so on, that humans do. These emotions must be alien, freakish, sad, embarrassing, humiliating, immature, pathetic. These emotions must be quite separate from commonsensical us. But they arent. The emotions that sustain religious belief are all, in fact, deeply ordinary and deeply recognisable to anybody who has ever made their way across the common ground of human experience as an adult. Its just that the emotions in question are rarely talked about apart from their rationalisation into ideas. This is what I have tried to do in my new book, Unapologetic. Ladies and gentlemen! A spectacle never before attempted on any stage! Before your very eyes, I shall build up from rst principles the simple and unsurprising structure of faith. Nothing up my left sleeve, nothing up my right sleeve, except the entire material of everyday experience. No tricks, no traps, ladies and gentlemen; no misdirection and no cheap rhetoric. You can easily look up what Christians believe in. You can read any number of defences of Christian ideas. This, however, is a defence of Christian emotions of their intelligibility, of their grown-up dignity. The book is called Unapologetic because it isnt giving an apologia, the technical term for a defence of the ideas. And also because Im not sorry.
Francis Spuords Unapologetic is published by Faber (12.99). To order a copy for 10.39 with free UK p&p call Guardian book service on 0330 333 6846 or go to

Yet at the same time, it is not music that denies anything. It oers a strong, absolutely calm rejoicing, but it does not pretend there is no sorrow. On the contrary, it sounds as if it comes from a world where sorrow is perfectly ordinary, but still there is more to be said. I had heard it lots of times, but this time it felt to me like news. It said: everything you fear is true. And yet. And yet. Everything you have done wrong, you have really done wrong. And yet. And yet. The world is wider than you fear it is, wider than the repeating rigmaroles in your mind, and it has this in it, as truly as it contains your unhappiness. Shut up and listen, and let yourself count, just a little bit, on a calm that you do not have to be able to make for yourself, because here it is, freely oered. There is more going on here than what you deserve, or dont deserve. There is this as well. And it played the tune again, with all the cares in the world.

wrinkle of concern on his handsome forehead, caused by the troublesome thought of Gods possible existence: a wrinkle about to be removed by one magic application of Reason. These plastic beings dont need anything that they cant get by going shopping. But suppose, as the atheist bus goes by, you are povertystricken, or desperate for a job, or a drug addict, or social services have just taken away your child. The bus tells you that theres probably no God so you should stop worrying and enjoy your life, and now the slogan is not just bitterly inappropriate in mood. What it means, if its true, is that anyone who isnt enjoying themselves is entirely on their own. What the bus says is: theres no help coming. Now dont get me wrong. I dont think theres any help coming, in one large and important sense of the term. I dont believe anything is going to happen that will materially alter the position these people nd themselves in. But lets be clear about the emotional logic of the buss message. It amounts to a denial of hope or consolation on any but the most chirpy, squeaky, bubble-gummy reading of the human situation. St Augustine called

this kind of thing cruel optimism 1,500 years ago, and its still cruel. A consolation you could believe in would be one that wasnt in danger of popping like a soap bubble on contact with the ordinary truths about us. A consolation you could trust would be one that acknowledged the dicult stu rather than being in ight from it, and then found you grounds for hope in spite of it, or even because of it, with your ngers rmly out of your ears, and all the sounds of the complicated world rushing in, undenied. I remember a morning about 15 years ago. It was a particularly bad morning, after a particularly bad night. We my wife and I had been caught in one of those cyclical rows that reignite every time you think theyve come to an exhausted close, because the thing thats wrong wont be left alone, wont stay out of sight if you try to turn away from it. Over and over, between midnight and six, when we nally gave up and got up, wed helplessly looped from tears, and the aftermath of tears, back into scratch-your-eyes-out, scratch-each-others-skin-o quarrelling. Intimacy had turned toxic: we knew, as we went around and around

it, almost exactly what the other one was going to say, and even what they were going to think, and it only made things worse. It felt as if we were reduced but truthfully reduced, reduced in accordance with the truth of the situation to a pair of intermeshing routines, cogs with sharp teeth turning each other. We got up, and she went to work. I went to a caf and nursed my misery along with a cappuccino. I could not see any way out of sorrow that did not involve some obvious self-deception, some wishful lie about where wed got to. And then the person serving in the caf put on a cassette: Mozarts Clarinet Concerto, the middle movement, the adagio. If you dont know it, it is a very patient piece of music. It too goes round and round, in its way, essentially playing the same tune again and again, on the clarinet alone and then with the orchestra, clarinet and then orchestra, lifting up the same unhurried lilt of solitary sound, and then backing it with a kind of messageless tenderness in deep waves, when the strings join in. It is not strained in any way. It does not sound as if the music is struggling to lift a weight it can only just manage.

he novelist Richard Powers has written that the Clarinet Concerto sounds the way mercy would sound, and thats exactly how I experienced it in 1997. Mercy, though, is one of those words that now requires denition. It does not only mean some tyrants capacity to suspend a punishment he has himself inicted. It can mean and does mean in this case getting something kind instead of the sensible consequences of an action, or as well as the sensible consequences of an action. Mercy is But by now I would imagine that some of you reading this are feeling some indignation building up. Wait a minute, wait a minute, you say; never mind how youre dening mercy. What about the way youre dening religion? Thats religion, listening to some Mozart in a caf? You were experiencing what we in the world of unbelief like to call an emotion, an emotion induced by a form of artistic expression which, to say the least, is quite well known for inducing emotions. You were not receiving a signal from God, or whatever it is you were about to claim; you were getting, if anything, a signal from Mr Mozart, that dead Austrian in a wig. I hope that isnt your basis for religious faith, you say, because youve described nothing there that isnt compatible with a completely naturalistic account of the universe, in which theres nobody there to extend any magical mercy from the sky, just stu, lots and lots of astonishing, suciently interesting stu, all the way up from the quantum scale to the movement of galaxies. Well, yes. By the same token, what Ive described is also completely compatible with a non-naturalistic account of the universe but thats not really the point, is it? The point is that from outside, belief looks like a series of ideas about the nature of the universe for which a truth-claim is being made, a set of propositions that you sign up to; and when actual believers dont talk about their belief in this way, it looks like slipperiness, like a maddening evasion of the issue. If I say that, from inside, it makes much more sense to talk about belief as a characteristic set of feelings, or even as a habit, you will conclude that I am trying to wriggle out, or just possibly that I am not even interested in whether the crap I talk is true. I do, as a matter of fact, think that it is. I am a fairly orthodox Christian. Every Sunday I say and do my best to mean the whole of the Creed, which is a series of propositions. But it is still a mistake to suppose that it is assent to the propositions that makes you a believer. It is the feelings that are primary. I assent to the ideas because I have the feelings; I dont have the feelings because Ive assented to the ideas. So to me, what I felt listening to Mozart in 1997 is not some wishywashy metaphor for an idea I believe in, and its not a front behind which the real business of belief is going on: its the thing itself. My belief is made of, built up from, sustained by, emotions like that. Thats what makes it real. I do, of course, also have an interpretation of what happened to me in the caf which is just as much a scaffolding of ideas as any theologian or


4 Review Saturday Guardian 01.09.12 MY HERO Roald Dahl By Michael Rosen

I was teaching an MA seminar on childrens literature when a rather severe Latvian student dived into a discussion about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by stating: Roald Dahl no literary merit whatsoever. Immediately, a young London primary school teacher retorted with stories of how the children in her class, many of whom wouldnt read of their own accord, loved Dahls books, roaring with laughter and amazement as she read them out loud. The Latvian woman didnt change her expression at all, and repeated: Roald Dahl no literary merit whatsoever. Im too old to have read him as a child, so my encounters with both his life and his work have been as a parent. Im of the view that what we call childrens books are interventions in societys debate about bringing up children, and Dahl entered this debate through literature with passion and commitment. The result was that he was one of the rst writers who can be read and enjoyed by children to show us adults in familiar, everyday situations failing spectacularly, grotesquely and exaggeratedly in this job of nurture. Dahl knew what he was doing, remarking that we both love and hate our parents, even if we dont admit it to ourselves. He also knew that to engage the child in this conict, the child had to care deeply about the fate of the children in the book. He achieved this through a series of tricks and schemes that surprise, horrify and disgust us. Dahls own life was in one sense privileged, but in another beset with cruelty, tragedy and pain. He responded to these challenges with astounding ingenuity and heroism, mingled with gruness and fun. As an alternative to weeping, his books and his life oer me, for one, the example of a crazy, hyperbolic route through.
Fantastic Mr Dahl by Michael Rosen is published by Pun on 13 September. To celebrate Roald Dahl Day, Michael Rosen will be taking part in an interactive webcast with Quentin Blake on 24 September. Register at

THE WEEK IN BOOKS Authors on the attack; and book reviewing in crisis

While the Edinburgh International Book festivals rst half was dominated by authors in belligerent mood, as when Irvine Welsh and China Miville slated the London book industry for imperialism and resistance to innovation they ceded Charlotte Squares tents in the second week to colleagues going about the more conventional business of promoting their latest books. Yet these writers were on the attack too, albeit humorously and with themselves as victims: as if infected by a virus of droll self-criticism, they sounded not unlike the confessional standups performing across the city in the fringe. Novelists are fakers, drama queens, said Alan Warner, who caricatured his ction as James Kelman meets Dallas. Plot is a weakness of mine, Zadie Smith conceded (though she had managed to pull one o in NW, she said, by not trying). Reviewing Inspector Rebuss career as he prepares to bring him back from retirement, Ian Rankin listed howlers in the novels, singled out his worst joke, and ruefully acknowledged the incredibly frustrating blunder of failing to make Malcolm Fox (the Edinburgh sleuths intended replacement) share Rebuss addiction to music. Others set out to disabuse their listeners of any idea that the literary life

was enviable or glamorous. Howard Jacobson recalled the humiliations he suered around the time he handed in The Finkler Question (which went on to win the 2010 Booker): his publishers and agent unenthusiastic about it, disagreeable online trolling, visits to book groups who said stupid things. Even broadcasters, a species not normally seen as prey to self-doubt, were showing similar symptoms. When hosting the James Tait Black awards, the newsreader Sally Magnusson, daughter of Magnus, had no need to say anything about Nikolaus Pevsner (the subject of a shortlisted biography), but admitted, to gasps, that she had previously never heard of him. Jeremy Paxman, discussing his book Empire, was as spiky and high-handed as usual until answering questions. I feel Im oering banalities here, he conded. As ever, perhaps. John Dugdale

The Guardian First Book award longlist 2012

Fiction The China Factory Mary Costello (Stinging Fly Press) Absolution - Patrick Flanery (Atlantic) The Art of Fielding Chad Harbach (Fourth Estate) Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-cream Float Before He Stole My Ma Kerry Hudson (Chatto & Windus) The Yellow Birds Kevin Powers (Sceptre) The Lifeboat Charlotte Rogan (Virago) Non-Fiction Behind the Beautiful Forevers Katherine Boo (Portobello) Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Cant Stop Talking Susan Cain (Viking) The Origins of Sex Faramerz Dabhoiwala (Allen Lane) Sandstorm: Libya in the Time of Revolution Lindsey Hilsum (Faber) Readers choice Pelt Sarah Jackson (Bloodaxe)

For as long as book reviews have been published, writers have argued that book reviewing is in a state of crisis a pointless exercise, a waste of time. In 1846 Edgar Allan Poe called reviews nothing but a tissue of atteries. Virginia Woolf worried that the reader was none the wiser because the clash of completely contradictory opinions cancel each other out. Today, the crisis takes a dierent form: the challenge of the web, the decline of the critic you know the deal. More narrowly, theres Amazon with its anonymous, unmarshalled reviews. There have been numerous are-ups about these the self-reviewing, the hate-reviewing, the downright-unreadable-reviewing, and so on. The latest unholy behaviour to come to light is of authors paying for positive reviews. As the New York Times has recounted, and Salon has discussed, one Todd Rutherford set up a now-defunct operation called that would, for a fee, ensure the publication of dozens of ve-star consumer responses to a submitted book. It lled his pockets with cash, and, in at least one case, it seems to have worked, helping to create an ebook bestseller out of a self-published novelist. No one is about to write o readerreviews. They are, in any case, unstoppable, and the sheer weight of numbers suggests that only a tiny fraction of them can be corrupted. But the Amazon scandals rearm the importance of the much-maligned traditional review. Reviews in, say, newspaper books sections (as deputy editor of Review, Im biased) are vital in oering a properly critical (often negative) opinion of new books: a necessary accompaniment to articles in the same sections that showcase books or interview authors. Yes, theres only one wise voice rather than the wisdom of the crowd, but these critics are convincing, independent, entertaining and trustworthy enough that, time and again, they are paid to oer their opinion. And not in the way that Todd Rutherford was paid, by the authors of the books themselves. Paul Laity


Surprising and expected endings

Ian McEwans Sweet Tooth was greeted with enthusiasm by Peter Kemp in the Sunday Times (this acute, witty novel is a winningly cunning addition to McEwans ctional surveys of intelligence), but Amanda Craig in the Independent on Sunday was more ambivalent: Excursions into the metactional cause Sweet Tooth to become arch in a way which may irritate many readers its smooth prose and slippery intelligence sliding down like cream. Yet one feels at the end that it is the prelude for a lm script its nal question a foregone conclusion. Ion Trewin in the Sunday Express contented himself with a description of the plot, and What an unexpected twist from Ian McEwan! while Catherine Taylor in the Sunday Telegraph enjoyed the ride but felt that the end was too long in arriving, arch as it is. Disappointingly, McEwans customary wilful narrative sadism is largely missing. Alexander Linklater in the Observer wrote of Christopher Hitchenss collection Mortality that It would not be right to suggest that these are among the nest essays that Hitchens produced. The duress under which they were written renders them sparer and less uent than he was at his best. But they are his most honest. Lynn Barber in the Sunday Times commented that Hitchens was a truly great writer, but Mortality is not a great book, but that is because Death does not become him He always had a fear of selfindulgence His erce and fearless

rationalism so cherishable in other contexts somehow doesnt work with death. In the Mail on Sunday Craig Brown enjoyed the way Hitchens brings the same gleeful relish to attacking death as he once did to attacking Henry Kissinger, Mother Teresa, George Galloway, or any of his vast pantheon of villains, and ended with: If it turns out, contrary to his expectations, that God is alive and well, I dread to think what an argumentative place Heaven must have become. If I were God, Id be making myself scarce. Lesley McDowell in the Independent on Sunday felt that Henrietta Garnett has missed a trick in Wives and Stunners: The Pre-Raphaelites and Their Muses, as she is so well placed to understand them. And yet she seems reluctant to trust her own background or instincts here Consistency in group biographies is essential but tricky to maintain Garnett has some very juicy material at her ngertips, but there is little new for the reader to discover. Miranda Seymour in the Sunday Times began more appreciatively, as the books subject matter although hardly unfamiliar, never fails to grip. But what Garnett possesses in spades exuberance, a fondness for recondite detail, opinions on everything she lacks in other, more important respects. I can live with the unattributed quotations, random snatches of verse, a lamentable index I do, however, wish she had checked her facts. Duncan Fallowell in the Daily Express allowed that Garnetts meandering book contributes minor details but added that neither Georgiana Burne-Jones nor Ee Grey were really muses. Smooth prose and slippery intelligence Ian McEwans Sweet Tooth

Review Saturday Guardian 01.09.12 BOOK OF THE WEEK

Wandering through Willesden


Zadie Smiths new novel is ambitious and daring. Does she pull it o, asks Adam Mars-Jones
by Zadie Smith 295pp, Hamish Hamilton, 18.99 Zadie Smiths new novel is oddly divided between condence and indecision. The condence is easy to understand, given an enviable alignment of talent and readership, which oers the possibility of being faithful to roots without being bound by them, ignoring the old rules about minorities and the mainstream, and politely rejecting the role of poster girl for post-ethnicity. The indecision is harder to account for. Uncertainty keeps on cracking the pavements and makes for a stumbling journey through the streets of the book. NW is north-west London, though the focus is tighter, largely on Willesden (south London being no more relevant than Tierra del Fuego). The main character in the rst section is Leah Hanwell, a Willesdener of Irish descent now in her mid-30s, brought up on a council estate with a dodgy reputation, still living nearby though in relative comfort. Leah has a philosophy degree but works ingloriously in an oce where powerlessness is dressed up in the language of empowerment. She is warmly teased with an undercurrent of real resentment by her female, African-Caribbean co-workers (and theyre all female and AfricanCaribbean) for having laid hands on a treasure that rightly belongs to their community: her husband Michel, a francophone black man hoping to earn a better living from online investing than he has from hairdressing. The only aw in the marriage is that Michel wants children and Leah does not, though shes never said so. Theres a lovely rippling eect over the opening pages, with Leahs thoughts and surroundings enriching each other, rather in the manner of Ulysses. It begins to look as if Joyce will be the patron saint of this novel, as Forster watched over Smiths previous one (On Beauty). Its a style that doesnt bed down, though. The short length of sections works against the sense of total immersion that suits stream-ofconsciousness writing. There are still modernist moments, but they take the form of minor ourishes, such as Leahs wandering thoughts being presented on one page in the shape of a tree, and a monologue from Michel (to which shes barely listening) on the next.

Leah may be a native Londoner, but she has her naive side, and falls for the standard hard-luck story (mother desperately ill in hospital, no money for a taxi) told to her by a distressed woman knocking at the door. She oers 30, feeling some sort of rapport, particularly when it turns out that the two of them went to the same underperforming school. Michel and her mother make common cause in scolding her for gullibility, but even when she realises she has been scammed Leahs feelings for the con artist (name of Shar) remain conicted. These tendrils of plot and situation could be trained across the trellis of various genres. A woman who wants everything but the baby her man has set his heart on? Parochial domestic ction but with deeper possibilities. An encounter with a stranger leading to an invisible criminal underworld very close at hand? London Gothic la Ruth Rendell, perhaps, but with convincing youth details. Smith doesnt develop these strands, but she doesnt risk cutting them loose altogether. Meanwhile the tempo slackens, as if a well tted-out yacht were waiting for a breeze that never comes. Not all the secondary decisions are successful, but at least they get made. One of them is to present dialogue without inverted commas, as Joyce did (he hated those marks, calling them perverted commas), using a dash instead.

This preference calls for extra clarity when it comes to demarcating the end of speeches. What to make of this, for instance? I can see the magistrates court and a roundabout? Kids, stay close, stay in. Its like walking the hard shoulder on the motorway. Nightmare. Kennedy Fried Chicken. Polish Bar and Pool. Euphoria Massage. Glad we took the scenic route. This cant still be Willesden. Feels like were in Neasden already. Ulysses taught readers to read sentence-fragments as signals that the barriers between inside and outside, speech and thought, were dissolving, but here the whole paragraph seems to be spoken aloud. Theres an unpredictably changing distance in the point of view as it addresses Leah. The equivalent in a lm would be jarring alternation between long shot, two shot and extreme close-up. Theres even some wobble in matters of detail. Leahs mother thinks goods in Poundland can be priced at 2.49, and a local chemists does a brisk trade developing lms. At one stage Leah puts a payment on an old credit card from her student days, to prevent Michel from nding out. Thats quite a trick, with a card so long expired. The whole of the rst section is dened by its resistance to genre, by what it doesnt want to be. Its like an oddly shaped inner-city park, bounded not only by domestic ction

and thriller but by the modernism it aspires to. The touches of dilute Joycean play are less like new ways of looking at the world than mildly adventurous ways of organising a narrative. NW even abuts on the territory of the Hampstead novel (Hampstead being geographically close however socially and spiritually distant), that antique dismissive term for novels in which middle-class people alternately gloat and lament over their privileges. Leahs oldest friend Natalie invites her and Michel to dinner parties where conversation is reproduced as a composite stream of banalities (Let me tell you about Islam) and food fetishism (Pass the green beans with shaved almonds). Theres a touch of bad faith here, since successful authors are rarely looking at dinnerparty rituals from below the salt. The whole book is oddly queasy about the value of getting on in the world. In the next section the tone warms up. Inverted commas make a return, like birdless wings after some seasonal migration, bringing with them an immediate uplift in terms of readability. The main character here is Felix Cooper, a recovering addict putting his life back together and rejoicing in a recently established relationship. Encounters with his father and a neighbour sketch in a painful but not hopeless background. The dialogue cant avoid the pervasive non-inter-

rogatives innit and is it, but isnt ruled by them (to chirps, meaning to chat up, is lovely). Felix sets out from NW6 to W1 to inspect a derelict sports car owned by a posh boy named Tom, going cheap, but also pays a visit on impulse to Annie, an ex-lover of his based in Soho. Its perverse to represent Toms point of view, without the necessary knowledge or sympathy, but Annie is the one privileged character in the book who isnt dead on the page, perhaps because she survives by performing her class status, in the hope that poshness will disguise poverty. The section about Felixs day is certainly the most successful in the book, though it connects weakly with the rest, as if this were a separate project, imperfectly incorporated. The rest of the book is devoted to Leahs friend Natalie. Theres nothing limited about female friendship as a subject, as long as you have condence in it. But the Leah panel and the Natalie panel simply dont line up the hinges grind. The time scheme moves past the original dramatic set-up, the entanglement with Shar, as if it had never been important. This is the section that works hardest to achieve consistency of tone, but the chosen tone is an odd one, of brittle distance. The character is routinely referred to as Natalie Blake, as if the writer was reminding herself not to get close. Numbered subsections suggest a series of propositions, about marginality, education, privilege, rather than a felt story. Sometimes subsections need a title to clarify an allusion, so that 178. Beehive establishes, for the reader in need of clues, that the singer being described (this voice sounded like London) is indeed Amy Winehouse. Similar contortions of reference shroud perfectly ordinary mentions of Friends and The Wire. Theres no sophisticated response to the world that excludes irony, but the irony here seems anxious and self-protective. Its in this section, where she works hardest at building a wall between character and reader, that Smith also feels the need to break through it with misjudged interventions along the lines of Youre welcome and In case you were wondering The conicts within the writer are deeper than the ones she has devised for her characters. The trailing plot threads arent exactly tied o, more tucked back in. The real mystery of NW is that it falls so far short of being a successful novel, though it contains the makings of three or four.
Adam Mars-Joness Cedilla is published by Faber. To order NW for 12.99 with free UK p&p call Guardian book service on 0330 333 6846.

GUARDIAN BOOK CLUB Week three: Pat Barker on writing Regeneration

Regeneration marked a change of direction in my work. Until then, Id written novels drawing on my own experience of growing up in the north-east of England. These early novels were dominated by the voices of working-class women. My mother, my grandmother, my great aunts spoke like my ctional characters and so, for all the formative years of my life, did I. Mixed in with this ood of formidably articulate speech there were silences. Secrets. Where was my father? Hed been killed, I was told, in the war the second world war. I believed this, but not for long. And there were other mysteries. My grandfather had a horric wound in his left side. I used to see it every Friday night when he got stripped o for a wash at the kitchen sink before setting o for his weekly night out at the British Legion. It was a bayonet wound, but he never talked about the war. So there was a wound, and there was silence. But that kind of silence becomes compelling. Its a space which invites imaginative exploration. I knew I wanted to write about it but for many years I thought it was too dicult. I didnt want to write a pseudo-combatant novel. I needed to write from the viewpoint of a character who was intelligent, compassionate and well informed but who,

like me and like the reader, had no direct experience of the ghting in France. This character I found in the person of William Rivers, a psychologist and anthropologist who enlisted in the RAMC. In 1917 he had treated Siegfried Sassoon, whod been sent to Craiglockhart, a military psychiatric hospital just outside Edinburgh, after hed publicly protested against the continuance of the war. It was clear from Riverss admission report that he didnt consider Sassoon to be suering from any kind of mental illness. The friendship that developed between them gave me the spine of the book. Regeneration begins with their meeting and ends when Sassoon, heavily inuenced by Rivers, gives up his protest and goes back to the war. In writing about real historical gures theres an obligation to be fair, not to misrepresent them, but this never felt like a limitation. Its one of the paradoxes of writing ction as, I suspect, of most other kinds of artistic activity, that constraints act as a stimulus to the imagination, rather than an impediment. I also found that the presence of real characters meant that purely ctional characters such as Billy Prior were created in a rather dierent way. Almost every characteristic of Prior is designed to challenge Rivers in ways that his other patients,

who revered him to the point of idolatry, were incapable of doing. In eect Rivers becomes the anvil on which Prior is beaten out. As in my rst four novels I found myself writing mainly in dialogue, but this dialogue was not now the indirect and rambling speech of everyday life. In psychotherapy the rules of normal conversation dont apply. One person is encouraged to monopolise the conversation, while the therapist listens intently for nuances of meaning. Riverss conversations with his patients are like that. Only the manipulative Prior attempts to break the mould. The conversations between Sassoon and Wilfred Owen focus on another specialised use of language: writing and editing poetry. In trying to nd the exact word for the sound a shell makes as it goes over, they are trying to express the experience as vividly as possible, while at the same time controlling the emotions it evokes and distancing themselves from it. But this highly self-conscious use of language in therapy and poetry forms a brittle crust over the traumatic experiences that poetry and therapy tried to address. The rational, active world of Craiglockhart vanished every night as the individual patients Owen and Sassoon included faced the terror

of nightmares or lay awake trying to avoid sleep. Regeneration was never meant to be the rst volume of a trilogy. I struggled with the nal chapter, writing and rewriting it to give a sense of completion, before nally admitting that I was trying to impose a resolution that had simply not happened. Sassoon is going back to ght, though still convinced that the war is being fought for unjust ends. Riverss own faith in the war had been shaken. The story was not over and, I was beginning to realise, could end only with the ending of the war. At that point I knew there would be two more books. I never thought of writing one more. Three acts seem to be the minimum we need to feel satised: three little pigs, three Billy Goats Gru. Perhaps in the end all storytelling reverts to the simplicity and power of fairy tales.
Next week John Mullan will be looking at readers responses.

To order a copy of Regeneration for 5.39 with free UK p&p call Guardian book service on 0330 333 6846

6 Review Saturday Guardian 01.09.12 NON-FICTION

Towards the end


Christopher Hitchenss last pieces are a tting memorial. By Colm Tibn

by Christopher Hitchens 240pp, Atlantic, 10.99 He was the best company in the whole world; he had read widely and because he was an industrious man and lled with curiosity, he hoped to read much more. He would stay up late drinking and talking, moving with judicious and delicious care from the large questions of the day to the small sweet business of invective, anecdotes and gossip. You had to take full advantage of his company; he was never sticking around the next day. He had a ight to catch to a destination where he would denounce someone in need of denouncing, or to a debate where he would, he was sure, win the argument. And then he would stay up late again, and the talk would be brilliant. Only once I saw another side of him. I dropped by his apartment in Washington late one evening about ve or six years ago to nd him alone. He had just eaten, and had a periodical propped up on the kitchen table. He was quiet, mellow, reserved, almost dull. The mischief was all missing. I wondered if he was like this more times than anyone, except his immediate family, guessed. As I left, it was clear to me he was settling in for a nights work, or a nights sleep. He was not himself at all, and I liked seeing that other side of him. This last sad and oddly inspiring book comes with an introduction by his editor at Vanity Fair, Graydon Carter and an afterword by his wife

Christopher Hitchens Its better a believer dies than that an atheist does Carol Blue. Christopher Hitchenss own pieces are shaped like a fugue; the theme is death, his own death, and the voice in each piece changes slightly as death comes closer. He begins simply with the theme: I have more than once in my time woken up feeling like death. But nothing prepared me for the early morning in June when I came to consciousness feeling as if I were actually shackled to my own corpse. The whole cave of my chest and thorax seemed to have been hollowed out and then relled with slow-drying cement. I could faintly hear myself breathe but could not manage to inate my lungs. Soon, it emerges that he has cancer of the oesophagus, the disease from which his father had died at the age of 79. Hitchens is only 61. It is clear that he will give anything to live. I had real plans for the next decade Will I really not live to see my children married? To watch the World Trade Center rise again? To read if indeed not to write the obituaries of elderly villains like Henry Kissinger and Joseph Ratzinger? And so the struggle begins; he writes with a calm and searching honesty about the idea that I dont have a body, I am a body. As someone who liked a struggle, indeed often went downtown in search of one, he discovers that when you sit in a room with a set of other nalists, and kindly people bring a huge bag of poison and plug it into your arm the image of

the ardent soldier or revolutionary is the very last one that will occur to you. While he loses his hair, he is rather pleased that the chest hair that was once the toast of two continents hasnt yet wilted, but so much of it was shaved o for various hospital incisions that it is a rather patchy aair. He writes then about how his many friends and his enemies respond to his illness. When someone writes to say that, on his death, he should freeze at least my brain so that its cortex could be appreciated by posterity, he responds: Well, I mean to say, gosh, thanks awfully. He oers a hilarious account in dialogue form of a woman coming to get a copy of his memoirs signed he is on a book tour in the middle of all the treatment and telling him about a friend with cancer who died an agonising death. He also manages to open a section of this book with a good new joke: When you fall ill, people send you CDs. Very often, in my experience, these are by Leonard Cohen. But other times here, he uses sentences that are too stark and serious to be aphoristic. He is in command of a new tone as he considers the damage done to his actual voice. What do I hope for? If not a cure, then a remission. And what do I want back? In the most beautiful apposition of two of the simplest words in our language: the freedom of speech. There is a great deal of suering and slow loss as he undergoes every treatment possible. As his wife notes: He responded to every bit of clinical and statistical good news with a radical, childlike hope. When such hope seems futile, he realises how much he is losing. With pains in his arms, hands and ngers, he writes: Almost like the threatened loss of my voice, which is currently being alleviated by some

temporary injections into my vocal folds, I feel my personality and identity dissolving as I contemplate dead hands and the loss of the transmission belts that connect me to writing and thinking. The last section of Mortality is made up of fragmentary jottings, which the publisher notes were left unnished at the time of the authors death. One of these notes reads: If I convert its because its better a believer dies than that an atheist does. He does not convert of course. He remains true to the ideas that animated his life, and to the idea of what words can do. In that last-quoted jotting, I can hear him starting up, ready for trouble. I think back to a few years ago, when there is no hint of illness. I am driving him to a party in Wicklow; at the party he will be brilliant and provocative and sparkling; also, he has just, he is sure, won hands-down in a debate about God in a theatre in Dublin. There is no one happier. He is full of beans and eager to spill them. Christopher, I ask him, what is the worst religion? Oh, Islam, he replies, in a tone both earnest and edged with self-parody, upping his English accent. And what is the second worst? I ask. Yours, he says slyly and leaves silence. We are less than a hour from our destination, but he will do everything in his power now to set up the argument so he can show me its shape, as in this book he does everything to make sure that his voice remains civilised, searching and ready to vanquish all his enemies, most notably in this case the dullness of death and its silence.
Colm Tibns The Testament of Mary is published by Viking. To order Mortality for 8.79 with free UK p&p call Guardian book service on 0330 333 6846 or go to

A love song to Sarah Losh

Rachel Hewitt on an intimate, lavish life of a visionary architect
The Pinecone
by Jenny Uglow 344pp, Faber, 16.99 Five miles south of Carlisle, at a crossroads of four Cumbrian country lanes, lies the village of Wreay, pronounced locally as Rhea (to rhyme with near). As a girl, Jenny Uglow recalls happening upon an incongruous sight beside Wreays village green: what looks like a small Romanesque chapel from northern Italy. Constructed in 1842, the church deviated markedly from contemporary fashion, particularly from the architectural traits of the Gothic revival that had been championed by Augustus Welby Pugin from the 1830s. Whereas Pugins buildings were dark and claustrophobic, richly coloured and emotional, the church of St Marys at Wreay was strikingly plain. The nave was so simple, Uglow writes, that it could almost be a local fellside barn. Joined to a curved apse, the overall eect was of a small northern Italian chapel or a small Byzantine basilica, even echoing the style of Norman ecclesiastical architecture. But if its structure was merely strange and anachronistic, the Wreay churchs decoration was utterly extraordinary and quite unique. Its faade, pillars, windows, altar and doorway were crammed with carvings: symbols from creation myths, from early religions and cults, personications of gods from east and west, representatives of the natural world and the local Cumbrian landscape, and ammonites, fossils and coral. On the walls of the chapel, emblematical monsters hung like gargoyles: a huge dinosaur-like snake, a crocodile poised to attack, a winged turtle and a chubby vertiginous tortoise. These had a utilitarian function, concealing ventilators or emitting smoke from the boiler. Stained-glass windows were adorned with owers and fossils, or comprised mosaics made from remnants picked up from the oor of the glaziers workshop. The churchs interiors were similarly recycled, from the spoils of its creators travels: candelabra from Pompeii, a 14th-century bronze holy-water pail from Normandy, two oak chairs from Paris and, on the oor, bearskins, perhaps from Russia. The pulpit was fashioned from bog oak, reclaimed from a tree that had lain in a bog for at least three thousand years. And everywhere there were pinecones: on the arches that enfolded the door, on square pediments at the well of the nave and on each massive oak cross-beam in the roof. The pinecone was at once an ancient symbol of reproduction and regeneration, and a Masonic emblem of enlightenment. Descartes had suggested that the pinecone-shaped pineal gland might be the abode of the spirit of man, from which the soul radiates forth through all the remainder of the body. Uglow describes how the cones slow ripening and opening to release the seeds came to stand for the expansion of consciousness. The pinecone was also mathematically signicant. The arrangement of its scales follows the Fibonacci sequence, in which each subsequent number is the sum of the previous two: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13. Occurring in a multitude of biological settings, from an artichoke to a snail shell, the Fibonacci sequence articulates, as Uglow puts it, the geometry of life. The pinecone, with its meanings that proliferated as enthusiastically as its scales, neatly encapsulated the catholic nature of the references that were contained in the Wreay churchs decoration. That buildings rich symbolic vocabulary was gleaned from east and west, past and present, from ancient notions in theology and current trends in geology, from superstition and enlightenment, the local and the wholly distant. But the pinecone was also imbued with meanings that were intensely personal to the churchs architect and maker. It was a memorial to the local landscape around Wreay that, in the late 18th-century, was replete with newly planted larches and their clusters of small cones. The Pinecone is Uglows love song to St Marys church and to its creator, Sarah Losh. Born in 1786 to landowning parents, whose wealth derived largely from a prosperous alkali works in Newcastle, Loshs educational development was chiey entrusted to her uncle, James Losh. A lawyer immersed in the radical political circles of 1790s Britain, James numbered among his friends the philosopher William Godwin, the essayist Thomas Holcroft and d the poets William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. In the political ferment that folrev volowed the outbreak of the French revony lution, James Losh was one of many ng who passionately advocated, among dother causes, voting reform and education for all, including women. Under Jamess tutelage, Sarah was introduced to some of the periods most innovative writers, and Uglow surmises that she must have been one of the rst girls to hear Wordsworths Michael, or Coleridges Ancient Mariner. After a d formative period travelling around Italy after the conclusion of the Narne ed poleonic wars, Sarahs interests turned dsto architecture. She became a Wordshat t worth in stone, sharing his belief that in low and rustic life the essential passions of the heart nd a better soil in which they can attain their maturity, are less under restraint, and speak a plainer and more emphatic language. As heiress to her fathers estate, she bore responsibility for the upkeep of the villages infrastructure. The church at Wreay her crowning achievement was one of a number of local construction projects that included wells, cottages, schools and a Celtic carved cross and mortuary chapel for Loshs beloved sister, Katharine. All bore the hallmarks of her exceptional imagination and demonstrated her consistent attentiveness to the poor, arguing for the rights of the people. Like Wordsworth in his poetry, Loshs style attempted to incorporate the passions of men with the beautiful and permanent forms of nature. In the epilogue to The Pinecone, Uglow assesses Loshs importance in architectural history, citing another biographers comment that if artistic feeling is to be measured by an ability to seize the currents of thought and feeling that ow through the age and give them fresh and vital expression, Sarah Losh and her church are very important indeed. Loshs talent for encapsulating historical and trans-historical trends in a ercely local setting mirrors the great strength of Uglows biography. The Pinecone uses Losh and her church as the intimate foil for a magnicent sweeping prospect of the natural and intellectual landscape of the late-18th and early-19th centuries, incorporating geology, the industrial revolution, the coming of the railways, trends in antiquarianism and architecture, changing perspectives on female education and the Afghan war. But Losh is clearly a tricky character for a biographer. Uglow repeatedly makes reference to the dearth of archival sources pertaining to her subject: Losh destroyed most of her own writings, and her journals, if extant, are missing. So her own voice remains muted. Uglow instead moulds her persona out of external sources, from her relationships with her father, uncle and sister, and chiey, from Loshs own creations. It is in her buildings that we have to look for her, Uglow writes; she left stones and wood, not letters, fo for us to read. In this respect, the form of Uglows biography reects its conte tent. The silence at the heart of The Pine necone is not only the silence of Loshs vo voice, but also mirrors the mystery at the centre of the church at Wreay, its u unexplained theological signicance. A And form mirrors content elsewhere to too. In its intimate tone, its lavishly d detailed depictions of Loshs creations, a and its seamless interweaving of the lo local and immediate with the global a and the timeless, Uglows book is an e exuberant match for the beautiful, orn nate and movingly personal nature of L Loshs extraordinary church.
Ra Rachel Hewitts Map of a Nation is published by Granta. To order The Pinecone for 13.59 with free Gr UK p&p call Guardian book service on 0330 333 6846.


Review Saturday Guardian 01.09.12 NON-FICTION

Naval gazing

A copy of a copy
Kathryn Hughes on how every act of remembering is an act of creation
Pieces of Light: The New Science of Memory
by Charles Fernyhough 352pp, Prole, 14.99 Proust, it turns out, was not really Proustian at all. Lost time did not come ooding back the moment Marcel tasted those madeleine crumbs sopped in lime-blossom tea. What actually happens, if you read the passage carefully, is that the narrator is ambushed by an intense sensation that he cant account for. It actually takes him 10 goes before he links his bliss to a childhood memory of Aunt Lonie, cakes and Combray. From there it requires 3,000 pages of painstaking prose to corral the past into some sort of meaningful order. It is this eortful quality, this way that memory is something that you have to do that Charles Fernyhough wants us to take away from Pieces of Light, his attempt to explain what he calls the new science of memory. In fact, this new science turns out to be pretty old science if you happen to be an academic who works in one of memorys cognate disciplines: psychology, neuroscience, even evolutionary biology. But Fernyhough, who is a popular science writer as well as an academic psychologist, is worried that most lay people still think of memory in terms of a vast personal DVD library. When we want to recall that long, hot summer of 1976 or last weeks committee meeting we imagine ourselves reaching for the le in which that experience is stored, neat as a new pin. People with bad memories are assumed simply to have lost the knack of nding their way along their own library shelves. In fact, as Fernyhough persuasively shows, memory is far more mutable than that. Every act of remembering is an act of creation, a confabulation stitched together from an array of different cues. We know this, really, when we get into a muddle over whether we actually recall an incident from childhood or whether weve simply been told about it or seen a photo. What is harder to accept is that all our memories are equally provisional, created not out of a stable if sometimes cloudy past, but from the urgent needs of the present. We remember what we remember because it helps us negotiate who we are today and what we might become tomorrow. But thats not all. Each act of remembering, and especially each act of retelling, subtly changes the memory itself. What we end up with is a smudgy copy of a copy ch of a copy, over which the ocious present has drawn a sharp new outline and now dares us to disagree. To make all this clearer Fernyhough serves up the eurolatest ndings in neuroscience, quoting academic studies in which the hippocampus, amygdala and prefrontal cortex ash on and o like fairy lights. He mixes these with in-depth case histories of people such as Claire whose memory failed at the age of 43 when her brain was diced by herpes simplex; and poor Colin, a lorry driver who remains haunted by a fatal trac accident that was not his fault. If Fernyhough had pushed harder he might have produced the kind of book reminiscent of Oliver Sacks at his early to mid-career best. In other words, he might have been able to use the poetic oddness of Claires and Colins personal wiring as a way of getting closer to the heart or the brain of the human condition. But he never quite manages to do this, and instead Claire and Colin and Patrick, Peter and Nanna Martha and all his other case studies remain locked inside their own narrative dilemmas, unable quite to join hands with the rest of the book. Its not as though Fernyhough is uncomfortable with using personal testimony to put warm esh on hard science. A sizeable chunk of the book is taken up with him exploring his own personal past. He tells us about a pottytraining accident when he was three, birthday thank you letters he wrote when he was six, awkward sailing trips a little later with his newly divorced dad. He strides around Sydney and Cambridge, cities where he lived long ago, and frets whether his deeply felt personal memories are actually rehashed from holiday brochures and promotional blurbs. These sections do not add greatly to the book. Fernyhough namechecks WG Sebald a couple of times and it is hard not to feel as we tramp along the Blackwater with him in search of memories of his late father that he is straining too hard after a luminous opacity. Where the book really springs to life is, ironically, in its more journeyman parts. Fernyhough is a crisp and knowledgeable guide to all the data that generally stays buried deep in specialist journals. We hear about the New Zealand twin study, in which fractious siblings claim heroic memories for themselves and smuggle the painful or embarrassing ones on to their other halves. Then theres the discovery that a group of people who are allowed to discuss an event actually remember less about it than the same people tested individually. And thats not forgetting the clever pigeons who quickly learn to distinguish between random squiggles and photographs of natural scenes and can still tell the dierence two years later. Fascinating though these snippets are, they do not really constitute a new science that the books subtitle hopefully proposes. What we get instead is an episodically enlightening meditation on the complex business of remembering, forgetting, and re-remembering all over again.
K Kathryn Hughess biography of Mrs Beeton is published by HarperPerennial. B To order Pieces of Light for 11.99 with free UK p&p call Guardian book service on 333 0330 3 6846.

Jan Morris admires the biography of a forgotten hero of the British eet
Commander: The Life and Exploits of Britains Greatest Frigate Commander
by Stephen Taylor 354pp, Faber, 20 On the day of Trafalgar (St Ursulas day, 1805) Edward Pellew was certainly not abed in England. But he wasnt o the coast of Spain. Instead, he was commanding the Royal Navys eet in the Indian Ocean, and for the rest of his days he must surely have thought himself accursed he was not there, with Nelson. His career was honourable in his time he was almost as famous as Nelson himself but his life lacked the allure of an iconic victory or a poignant death, and today we have almost forgotten him. Shakespeare would have found satisfying material in the British navy of the Napoleonic wars. There were plenty of striking characters about, ashore and aoat, there was a genuinely heroic strain, and there was an undercurrent of what Churchill allegedly dened as the naval tradition rum, sodomy and the lash. But this admirable biography of a good man who spent his entire life in the service Pellew died (in his bed) as the rst Lord Exmouth of Canonteign reminds us that the whole vast construction of Hanoverian admiralty was riddled with rivalry, nepotism, jealousy, opportunism, squabbles over prize-money and petty backbiting. Pellew was a child of this naval culture. The son of a packet captain, he entered the navy when he was 13 and stayed with it all his life, dying in 1833 as a viscount and an admiral of the eet. Although a large part of his career was pursued at sea, and although he took part in innumerable minor engagements, much of this biography is necessarily taken up with going-ons behind the scenes. Pellew was by no means immune to the prevailing navy ethos, but he played it for good as well as for bad. He was perpetually at odds with rival ocers, and he shamelessly sought the patronage of the great in search of promotion or advancement, for himself and for his family. His style was sometimes graceless, and although he was often compared with Nelson, he lacked the charisma, spiced with fallible humanity, that was to endear his great contemporary to posterity. He certainly carried favouritism too far in wangling ships and promotions for two of his sons, who both became not very successful admirals in their time, but he generously pulled wires on behalf of a host of unrelated protgs, too. He did not himself come from a privileged navy family, and he was especially understanding towards young ocers of a similar background to his own. His ships crews greatly admired him, for his kindness as for

Edward Pellew portrait by Lawrence Thomas, c1810 his ability, and if some of his fellowocers loathed his guts, many others swore by him. Much of his sea-time was spent blockading enemies, usually French, in one sea or another, and this often meant ennui. Stephen Taylor skilfully guides us through the less exciting passages of Pellews life, helped along by a minor scandal or two and many disagreements, and we are made aware always of the mans enviably happy family condition: if he enjoyed an occasional peccadillo on distant stations, he and his wife were successfully married for more than 50 years. He was magnanimous to his French opponents, always considerate to his men, and generally kind. Pellew fought minor battles in the Great Lakes (during the war of 1812), in the Mediterranean and in the Indian Ocean, but fortunately, from an aesthetic point of view, his two seminal actions come early and late in this book. The rst is a small seacontest that made Pellew famous. It was fought in 1793, at the very start of the French revolutionary war. He was a frigate captain on the Channel station, and after a erce single-ship ght obliged a French frigate to surrender. It was the rst British victory of the war, and it was the making of him. He was knighted, promoted and entertained by George III at St Jamess Palace; he was presented to the prime minister, William Pitt, and he became a celebrity, the top gun, as it were, of the dashing frigate captains. Numerous pages later, the French wars being over at last, we nd Pellew, still thinking of Trafalgar perhaps, writing to a friend: I Have no chance now of being shot and buried in a clean hammock in the pure Element of Salt Water but must be content to be thrust into a dirty hole with the frogs. But the book ends, as it more or less began, with a spectacular triumph. Nobody describes a naval battle better than Taylor, and he makes the most of the assault on Algiers, in 1816, which brought Pellew to nal heights of fame. It was the climax of a campaign against the Barbary States, the semi-independent Muslim princedoms of North Africa, which had for years preyed on the sea-trac of the Mediterranean, and held thousands of Christian prisoners in slavery for ransom. When Pellew sailed into the port of Algiers with a vengeful eet of 23 sail, he was, it was believed, fullling not simply a British need, but a Christian duty. It was a terric action, fought at close range between the warships and the massed guns of the fortied port, and the fury of the battle, the explosions, the res, the devastation on shore, the whistle of the rockets overhead, was matched by the savagery of a tremendous summer hail-storm. Pellews success was absolute, and provides a glittering conclusion to his story. The Dey of Algiers was forced into a submissive treaty, and several thousand prisoners, of many nationalities, were set free. It was no Trafalgar, of course, but it did make a lesser European hero of Pellew, and sent him to his grave loaded with the honours of Christendom. He has never been quite forgotten his memory is said to live on in the character of Jack Aubrey, the ctional hero of Patrick OBrians novels, and it will certainly be revived by this ne book, which seems to me a awless demonstration of the biographers craft.
Jan Morriss Contact! A Book of Glimpses is published by Faber. To order Commander for 16 with free UK p&p call Guardian book service on 0330 333 6846 or go to


Steven Pooles non-ction choice

Follow the Money: A Month in the Life of a Ten-Dollar Bill by Steve Boggan (Union Books, 10.99) An Englishman journeys to the centre of America in order to follow a single $10 bill around the country for 30 days. As it passes from one hand to another, he encounters redneck racists, local rock stars, and a father and daughter

who like to shoot deer with bows and arrows. He muses delicately on rural ight and the recession, while drinking copiously and making rm friends with nearly everyone he meets. A stunt travelogue of this sort depends heavily on style; luckily, Boggan has constructed a hugely endearing narrative personality. One morning after is described thus: I felt like a computer booting up in the Arctic. Occasionally the prose descends into touristy vagueness, but mostly his raconteurship has you chuckling as the author ill-advisedly microwaves his underwear, delightedly discovers a drive-thru bottle shop, and generally behaves, in refreshing contrast to the exhausting get-up-and-go of the travel genre, with a lovably shambolic lassitude. It was 4.10. I had set out my clothes to dry, taken a walk, endured a steam bath and lain down for a nap. That was a full day by any-

ones standards. I dont know how he crammed it all in. Sin: The Early History of an Idea by Paula Fredriksen (Princeton, 16.95) The earnestly nice evangelicals Steve Boggan meets at one point might well have taken a dim view of his escapades in other places. But sin has meant dierent things in the past. This elegant monograph traces dramatic mutations in the concept from Jesus to Augustine, along with changing ideas about time, the cosmos, the devil, divine justice, and the human body. (According to one early theologian, Jesus ate and drank in a special way, without evacuating food.) Fredriksen recomplicates the relationship between early Christianity and Judaism, and oers sharp close readings of the Gospels, the Gnostics et al. She draws out the profound dier-

ences between Augustine (who created an inscrutable and angry god) and Origen (for whom God loves even the rational soul of Satan); and she also emphasises the apparent paradox that ancient monotheism allowed for many gods beneath the chief divinity it addressed the issue of heavens architecture, not its absolute population. So some early thinkers considered the God of Genesis, the mere author of matter, to be a lower being than the supreme deity of pagan philosophy. Still, authoring matter isnt something to be snied at as far as a days labour goes. Philosophy: All That Matters by Julian Baggini (Hodder, 7.99) Pagan philosophy has had its moments too. Where most popular overviews of philosophy take the form of a historical narrative with approachable

splashes of biographical colour, Bagginis book is thematically organised, plunging the reader rapidly into the analysis of truth and reality, from Aristotle and Plato to Locke, Kant, Ryle and Wittgenstein; and thence to metaphysics (the study of the fundamental nature of reality, including causation and free will), religion, the self, aesthetics, political philosophy and ethics. Baggini is an ecient (and amiably opinionated) sketcher of the major ideas, and names Life of Brian as one of his recommended philosophical lms in a playful set of appendices. The book usefully praises the intellectual virtues of rigour, subtlety and mitigated scepticism, and oers a particularly incisive defence of abstract thought an adjective normally used these days as a term of abuse. Thinking abstractly can be a hard days work too, or so Im told.

8 Review Saturday Guardian 01.09.12 NON-FICTION

Some cocktails are more gay than others

Philip Hensher challenges an unconvincing study of gay taste
How to Be Gay
by David M Halperin 472pp, Harvard, 24.95 A student of mine once told me that his favourite lm or, as he put it, the best lm ever was Sliding Doors, in which John Hannah woos Gwyneth Paltrow by repeating Monty Python sketches. It was made in 1998. On hearing this, I knew immediately that the student was heterosexual. It could not be otherwise. My favourite lms, on the other hand, are The Leopard, West Side Story, Celine and Julie Go Boating, A Touch of Mink, Even Dwarfs Started Small and the bit in Dil Se where 50 dancers do the cancan on the roof of a moving train. I dont think anyone, hearing this list, would be under any illusions. What does it mean to be gay? Is it enough, as many people think, just to fall into the sex-clinics category of men who have sex with men? That is intended to include the closet case and the cottager who goes home to wife and children. There are plenty of people increasing numbers, in fact who are gay without having much to do with traditional gay culture. There are gay people who follow rugby and even play it not necessarily in a pervy way and those who genuinely quite like the New Statesman. Some gay men live their entire lives kitted out in beige anoraks. Some of them collect stamps and others work for engineering companies. Some of those men gay but not Gay, as it were regard the whole musicals-interior decoration-fashionthing as a curious foreign language, not really worth learning. They have never said Bona or fabulous in their lives; the only musical they have ever seen is Phantom of the Opera, because their aunt took them. What their culture is, and whether it forms a unity, the cultural critic cannot, apparently, say. What he can be concerned about, it seems, is the culture of Gay, passed down through generations of slappers, propping up the bars of Soho in London, Chelsea in New York, and the Marais in Paris, all quarters which are now as dead as the proverbial dodo. David Halperin has written an over-long book, more localised in its application than he seems fully to appreciate, about the aspects of being gay other than sexual choice. His thinking arrives courtesy of a course he teaches at an American university. Naturally, when a course in How to Be Gay was announced in the American mid-west, an army of enraged family-rst campaigners rose up in taupe leisurewear to denounce Professor Halperin for wanting to recruit the innocent. The passages recounting this provide the most amusing sections of the book, as taupe leisurewear and its mental equivalents so often do. He admits that American is an unspoken adjective in much of what he has to say, including the title of the book I guess How to be an American Gay would be an even more uninviting subject than the one he has chosen. Outside America, he reliably gets things wrong, suggesting that Bollywood musicals may represent the same sort of gay cult to Indian gay men that Sex and the City does to Americans hes clearly never seen a lm in a Calcutta cinema, or he would have noticed that the appeal is not a gay thing at all at its source. Hes not even very good on opera, bringing up Aida as his prime example if he knew any opera queens, hed know that we are much more likely to be going to Tristan, Salome and Janacek. When I last saw The Makropoulos Case, the stalls were like Lo-Prole on a Friday night, packed with queens waving at each other, opera glasses in hand. In fact, the limits of the book are set not just by the limits of his culture, but by his understanding of what culture might be, even just in America. His interests are not really in gay culture at all, but in gay taste, particularly in lm and TV shows. He doesnt show much interest in gay meeting places when he does record nding himself in a backroom, it is to talk about the porn playing to an accompaniment of 19thcentury opera. He doesnt, amazingly, show any interest in clubbing, which I would say was a much more powerful expression of gay culture to recent generations of gay people than terrible old movies. He doesnt write about clothes, or gestures, or gait, or any of what identies a gay man to another at 80 paces, or the syntax and vocabulary and slang which makes them mutually clear at closer quarters I mean, you cant always be saying Have you seen Mommie Dearest? to strangers. Halperin pretends to be an outsider looking in, but you only need to look at the Earls Court, circa 1985 moustache ornamenting his face to realise that hes writing from well within his own culture, looking out, but not looking very far. Perhaps if you stand still long enough, you become an outsider, as the culture moves swiftly on, from Judy to Gaga. Those old movies are the backbone of the book, and especially ones starring, or about Joan Crawford. The book would have been much stronger if it were a disciplined 120 pages about Mildred Pierce, and its o-shoots Mommie Dearest and various drag-show econstructions reconstructions specically examined from the viewpoint of a middle-aged gay man. That is not a subject without its nterests, interests, but Halperins attempts to hift shift Crawford into like, having no interest in shopping for soft furnishings, Dusty Springeld, saying Miss Thing! or the perfect white shirt. I feel pretty much left out, never having seen Mildred Pierce, as it happens. In a blissfully funny book about homosexuality in the 19th century, Strangers, Graham Robb provided a list of things that at the time were thought to cause or to indicate homosexuality. His list included a lack of physical exercise, or on the other hand excessive riding of horses; too much meat-eating, or possibly anaemia; impotence or sexual overindulgence; plebeian brutishness or aristocratic renement; too many available women leading to satiety or too few leading to lack of opportunity; lack of parental love or excess of same; celibacy or marriage. It was surprising, in fact, that anyone ended up heterosexual, so allencompassing were the ca causes. Among the qualitie Halpqualities erin identies with gayness are being a great dancer or cook, that you have a weakness for mid mid-century modern, or that you drive a VW Golf a V Golf? VW Elsewher Really? Elsewhere, lists of gay-connected a activities can stretch to su surprising ha places: being gay had something to do with liking B Broadway musicals, or listening to show tunes or torch songs or Judy Garland, or playing th piano, the wearing uy sweaters, swea drinking cocktails smokcocktails, ing cigarettes an calling and each other gir girlfriend. Playing the p piano? Smoking cigarettes? ci Some coc cocktails, I can tell you, are more gay than othe the others Co Cosmopolita very tan m much so, th Nethe g groni, not so much. Else Elsewhere, Halper wonHalperin ders whet whether gay culture is dying out, on the basis t that he claims straight people bought up the houses of gay people after they died of Aids in the 1980s and 90s, and that the numbers of gay bars in major cities are on the decline from peaks in the 70s. He blames online hook-ups, which seems quite plausible. But is this really evidence of gay culture dying out? After all, those millions hooking up on Grindr are forming powerful connections with hundreds, sometimes thousands of other gay men, tossing each other aside afterwards with savage abandon, and are doing it without the aid of commercial bars. That doesnt seem like such an awful thing. The age of the camp persona, the biting comment, the ironic allusion is not passing, exactly, but it is moving towards a particular section of a particular gay community at a particular point in time. It would be good to know what proportion of gay men identify with that. An interesting book about gay culture would spend time with a range of gay men, of dierent ages and classes and backgrounds, nding out how their social networks were formed, as well as investigating how they liked to be entertained. Of course, that would be a great deal harder than just going on about a couple of scenes from 40s movies that you and your friends simply adore. Youd hardly guess, from Halperins account, that gay culture was anything but owned and demonstrated by latemiddle-aged white men in about four American cities. This cultural condence is driven on by its usual fuel, money some time soon the crucial gay diva will not be Lady Gaga, but Fish Leong (pictured). And there are 18-year-old black boys within a mile of David Halperin who have never heard of Joan Crawford. They have their culture too, and their own ideas, hugged however secretly to their hearts, of how to be gay. If they ever read this book, which they wont, they would probably put their hands to their throat in the gesture known to German gays as the necklace of pearls, roll their eyes, and say what we always say of a tragic eort all round Pur-lease.
Philip Henshers Scenes from Early Life is published by 4th Estate. To order How to Be Gay for 24.94 with free UK p&p call Guardian book service on 0330 333 6846 or go to

he the cenre tre of what gay culture means and meant is plain old weird. No wonder many gay men feel eft left out when hey they read accounts like his, this, and wonder what hey they look

The other side of joy

Ned Beauman mourns a great novelist and generational sage
Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace
by DT Max 272pp, Granta, 20 Reviewing a biography of Borges for the New York Times in 2004, David Foster Wallace took issue with the idea that we cant correctly interpret a piece of verbal art unless we know the personal and/or psychological circumstances surrounding its creation. For a writer as good as Borges, he argued, the stories so completely transcend their motive facts that the biographical facts become, in the deepest and most literal way, irrelevant. Foster Wallace had no interest in the project of picking through a writers work to underline all the places where it seems to correlate with real events. Which must have made it all the more frustrating several years earlier when, in just this sense, he had to write a biography of himself. Legal worries surrounding his rst story collection Girl with Curious Hair forced him to write a 17-page memo to the lawyers of Viking Penguin explaining the original sources of almost every detail in every story he became, as DT Max puts it, a writer in reverse. The task was almost unendurable and he didnt think a complete account of his life would be any more fun. As he once pastiched it, Dave sat in the smoking lounge of the library, pensively taking a drag from a cigarette and trying to think of the next line. Who wants to read that? Plenty of us do, but in many cases it wont primarily be Wallaces verbal art that were hoping to learn to interpret it will be his death. His ction tends to write its own subtexts up on the blackboard, but his suicide in 2008 was the only one of his interventions in the culture that came with no gloss. Wallace once said that ctions about how to be a fucking human being. More than any other contemporary novelist, his younger readers look to him for guidance on how to be a fucking human being. Thousands of people whove never read his ction have read or heard his famous Kenyon College commencement speech, a 23-minute lecture, the title of which, This Is Water, a friend of mine is planning to have tattooed on her arm. And yet the guy whos supposed to be teaching us how to be a fucking human being is also a guy who came to the conclusion that life wasnt worth living. Wallaces close friend Jonathan Franzen only made things more complicated in an essay last year when he wrote that arguably David had died of boredom even though in his posthumously published novel The Pale King Wallace expressly told us to embrace that state. Bliss asecond-by-second joy and gratitude at the gift of being alive, conscious lies on the other side of crushing, crushing boredom. If Franzen is right, then in fact, for Wallace, bliss was not at all what lay on the other side. This is one reason why Wallaces complaint about the Borges biography could never apply to this one: people care about the author of Innite Jest as a person in a way that no one ever really cared about the author of Ficciones as a person. Its true that Wallace never intended to set himself up as some sort of generational sage. But its also true that, as a devotee of self-help books and Alcoholics Anonymous, he was far more hospitable than most postmodern intellects to the idea that from someone elses advice or example you can learn specic and articulable things about how best to live your life. So it makes sense that his bereft readers would like some reassurance that Wallaces nal act was not as Edouard Lev wrote of his own imminent suicide the most important thing [he] ever said. To an extent, Max gives us this reassurance in his unshowy but diligent, thoughtful and interesting biography. He conrms that Wallace was living a contented and at least intermittently productive life with his wife Karen Green until he made the decision to go o his anti-depressants. But Max also reveals Wallace to be a far darker character than the talkative and brilliant uncle (in Dave Eggerss words) that we might extrapolate from his warm authorial voice. The most astonishing detail here is that Wallace once tried to arrange to buy a handgun to kill the husband of the poet Mary Karr, with whom he was infatuated. And Wallaces dealings with women were, in general, pretty grimy. It had never occurred to me that the numbly ecient lotharios of Brief Interviews with Hideous Men might owe quite so much to their creator, who once wondered aloud to Franzen whether his only purpose on earth was to put my penis in as many vaginas as possible. Is it fair to nd an irony in the fact that, even as Wallace spent 20 years guarding the fortications of his sobriety with such vigilance (those AA meetings), he never once sought to address what looks in this account like a second addiction? Max leaves this to us to decide, but the correlations made here between work and motive facts certainly deepen our understanding of both. Whatever you think of his personal life, you cant nish this book without feeling tremendous respect for Wallaces dedication and integrity as a writer. Wallaces ction is often decribed as exhausting. But for todays novelists, I think it can be doubly exhausting. There is not only the joyful but demanding task of reading and rereading his books, but also the far greater task of trying to work out how in a million years we might ever hope to absorb the magnicent advances and expansions Wallace oered to the form. So to see Wallace at work, to see him grappling so earnestly with his own questions about the purposes and possibilities of ction, is a gift. The biggest problem with this biography is perhaps that it works too well as an advertisement for the volume of collected correspondence that I hope will one day be published. As Max notes, his subject may have been the last great letter writer in literature, and it is absolutely no derogation of Maxs own abilities to say that for any given sentence he writes in this book, one would prefer to have another sentence of Wallaces. When Max uses an ellipsis to condense a fascinating letter from Wallace to his editor Michael Pietsch about his reasons for using endnotes in Innite Jest, one wants to snarl at him as if he were a waiter clearing away a plate we hadnt nished. In this sense, Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story is more tantalising than it is satisfying. But that would be the case with any book about this complex and extraordinary man.
Ned Beaumans The Teleportation Accident is published by Sceptre. To order Every Love Story for 16 with free UK p&p call Guardian book service on 0330 333 6846.


Review Saturday Guardian 01.09.12 FICTION SCIENCE FICTION Eric Browns roundup
rails against the mechanical mystery and whodunit plot, hes actually fairly straitjacketed by plot conventions himself. Comedys requirement for silly symmetries and hilarious incidents is often the only force driving this book forward. Much of the comedy is eortful, failing to rise above this level of contrived mishearing: He even reeled o a sentence from each of my rst two novels. Those were your plays, he said. I stared at him. My plays? Ive never written a play. He laughed again, a basso profundo laugh from far in and deep down. Clearly he found me a riot. Days. Those were the days. novel. Take a childless, Jewish middleaged man, born in Manchester or thereabouts, now living in London pursuing a profession not unlike the authors: in the past, weve had columnists, cartoonists and academics; this time, hes a novelist, Guy Ableman. Give him ungovernable romantic urges and a powerful but embattled sense of self-worth: Guy, whose rst novel stars a zoo keeper and her lustful monkeys, describes himself as a man ruled by pointless ambition and a blazing red penis. Throw in some marital diculties and outr sexual enthusiasms: this one briey covers the classic Jacobson kinks shoe fetishism, oedipal fantasy, and the powerful desire to be cuckolded but focuses chiey on Guys wish to bed his mother-in-law. Add some agitated discussion of Jewish identity. Then stir it all up with a lot of discourse, and of discourse about discourse. Ensure that the plot is minimal, and largely circular. And there it is, the distinctive feel of Jacobsons work like being trapped in a conned space with a particularly garrulous pervert. Jacobson is a highly self-conscious writer, and the readers possible objections to all this feature heavily in this story. Guys wife and friends complain that he only ever writes about himself; various women accuse him of misogyny, and say that they cant identify with his characters. As it goes along, Zoo Time argues with you about why youre not enjoying it. Yes, it has little plot, but only a moron could be interested in plot. Garrulous perverts not to your taste? Well, remember that devilish, existential blasphemers Henry Miller, DH Lawrence, Cline wrote many of the greatest 20th-century novels. And if you worry that all this sounds a bit navel-gazing, Jacobson has got there rst, and is making defensive jokes about it: And this is when you know youre in deep shit as a writer when the heroes of your novels are novelists worrying that the heroes of their novels are novelists who know theyre in deep shit. What is odd about Jacobson is the combination of existential blasphemy with a particular strain of broad English comedy. Again, he is well aware of this: when described as the English Philip Roth, he likes to call himself the Jewish Jane Austen. But thats wide of the mark. Kingsley Amis or even Tom Sharpe would be more accurate, coexisting uneasily with the intensity of Roth in his raging and obscene mode: Portnoys Complaint and Sabbaths Theatre, in their different ways, cast very long shadows over his work. And though Jacobson The killer for Zoo Time is that Jacobson has a limited talent for invention, and certainly very little inclination for it. As with many authors possessed of a powerful voice, it tends to crowd out everything else in the novel: A writer such as I am feels hes been away from the rst person for too long if a thirdperson narrative goes on for more than two paragraphs Guys every passing thought is generously and sometimes brilliantly transcribed, but otherwise Jacobson seems to have no idea what to do with his stick people, who couple and uncouple, turn gay or Hasidic, to no discernible pattern. Meanwhile, he rants and rages about the decline of the novel, about Oxfam, Amazon, eBooks, iPads, Oprah, apps, Richard and Judy, Facebook the graphic novel, Kindle, vampirism, about Swedish detective novels and misery memoirs, about the loss of the idea of the book as prestigious object, source of wisdom, and impious disturbance. The satirical argument seems either obvious or obviously wrong. The idea of the novel as prestigious object, impious disturbance and so on, is alive and well. If it wasnt, why would anyone publish Zoo Time?
To order Zoo Time for 12.99 with free UK p&p call Guardian book service on 0330 333 6846 or go to

Trapped with a garrulous pervert


Theo Tait wishes that Howard Jacobson would rant a little less
Zoo Time
by Howard Jacobson 376pp, Bloomsbury, 18.99 In the days before The Finkler Question won the 2010 Man Booker prize, Howard Jacobson enthusiasts tended to cast him as an under-appreciated outsider. It wasnt quite true he had been published by top literary imprints for nearly 30 years but it was a nice rhetorical position, oering a neat explanation of their mans failure to hit the big time. The pale, bloodless guardians of the English novel, so the argument went, simply couldnt cope with his comedy, his rumbustiousness, his Jewishness, his pungent, balls-out assaults on good taste. Now the games up on all that. Jacobson has, as he puts it, been discovered. His latest novel, Zoo Time, comes stripped of all outsider glamour, splattered with praise from the great and good, and accompanied by grandiose claims: he is arguably the greatest novelist working in Britain today, and so on. You could make a plausible case that Kalooki Nights (2006) probably his best novel, about a gassing in a Manchester suburb is a neglected masterpiece (though I wouldnt want to make it myself). A few eyebrows were raised when The Finkler Question, dealing with antisemitism and philosemitism among metropolitan types, won the Booker, but it just about supported the weight of Jacobsons newly acquired eminence. With Zoo Time, I suspect, hes due for a backlash. Jacobson has many talents as a rhetorician, a mud-slinger, a purveyor of ne phrases and sprightly patter, as an indefatigable singer of the song of himself. But is he a great novelist, or even a good one? Zoo Time conforms closely to the classic recipe for a Howard Jacobson

Hide Me Among the Graves by Tim Powers (Corvus, 14.99) Powerss rst novel in ve years is the sequel to his 1989 The Stress of Her Regard, which featured much derring-do with the Romantic poets Byron, Shelley and Keats and with vampires. The current novel also features vampires principally John Polidori, author of the very rst vampire story and the pre-Raphaelites Christina and Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Algernon Swinburne. John Crawford is a vet whose liaison with a prostitute seven years earlier produced a daughter, Johanna. Polidoris vampire spirit is intent on kidnapping Johanna for his own evil ends, and the novel follows Crawfords attempts to resuce his daughter, thwart the evil Polidori, and save London from vampyric hordes. Powerss sense of time and place is impeccable, and his characters real and imaginary leap o the page as the story gallops towards a thrilling nale. A long time coming, Hide Me Among the Graves has been worth the wait. VN by Madeline Ashby (Angry Robot, 7.99) Just when you think that the robot theme in SF has been done to death, along comes VN. Amy Peterson is a ve-year-old in a loving family, with an android mother and a human father. When her android grandmother assaults her mother, Amy instinctively attacks and eats granny and comes to the realisation that she is far from a normal child. Amy is a von Neumann self-replicating humanoid robot who, with her grandmothers identity lodged in her head, goes on the run. Ashby delves into the morality of creating articial life, examines the use to which humans might put androids, and along the way questions our relationship with the other. VN is a clever book with a wonderful ending by a writer who is well versed in AI technology, who can evoke sympathy with a few well-turned phrases and tells a satisfyingly complex story. Great North Road by Peter F Hamilton (Macmillan, 20) Detective Sidney Hurst is called in to investigate when a highly inuential clone, a member of the North family dynasty that owns a vast interstellar business empire, is found stabbed through the heart. The killing mirrors a similar slaying 20 years earlier, when another member of the dynasty was killed by a woman who, she claims, was the sole survivor of an extraterrestrial attack. Cue an expedition to the planet of St Libra where Hamilton unfolds his trademark rigorous exploration of an alien world in search of an answer to the enigma. Great North Road is vast, weighing in at over a thousand pages, and the author controls a cast numbering more than 50, multiple complex plot-lines, speculation on the science of wormhole technology and cloning, and arrives at a dnouement that is far more than just the resolution of a murder mystery. Seven Wonders by Adam Christopher (Angry Robot, 7.99) Seven Wonders is Christophers followup to his well received debut Empire State, and while its not a straight sequel it does share that novels surreal, noirish big city setting and a penchant for superheroes. Tony Prosdocimi lives in San Ventura, a city policed by a cabal of superheroes (the Seven Wonders of the title) whose arch enemies are the Cowl and his sidekick Blackbird. When Tony nds himself endowed with superpowers, he decides to do the job the Seven Wonders have left undone and confront the Cowl himself. What follows is an artfully plotted and thrilling action-adventure with some satisfying set-piece confrontations and amazingly rounded characterisation.
Eric Browns Ghostwriting is published by Innity Plus Books.

The man who looks after the Edge

Ursula K Le Guin on the long-awaited follow-up to two fantasy classics
by Alan Garner 160pp, Fourth Estate, 16.99 Boneland is an adult sequel to the two books for children Alan Garner published in 1960 and 1963. Colin and Susan, in The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath, are twins of about 12, rushing about on non-stop miraculous adventures and accepting supernatural events with almost superhuman placidity. At the end of the second book, Susan appears to be destined for an otherworldly fate or role. At the beginning of this third book, she has vanished. Her brother Colin has aged some 30 or 40 years, and their author nearly 50. Fifty years is a long time between books, yet it seems right and natural that Garner should need ve decades to gyre back round to where he began, the legend-haunted landscape of Alderley Edge, to be able to follow his story deeper into the human psyche and the dark abysm of time. Colin has become a brilliant astrophysicist, ornithologist, and all-round savant with ve or six masters degrees, as well as being an outstanding cook, carpenter, and social mist. He has total recall of everything that has happened to him since the age of 13, but has lost all memory of the years before that, along with his sister, and his intrepidity. The almost phlegmatically fearless child has become an anguished, supersensitive, self-absorbed man whose incoherent obsessions are driving him mad. Colin is searching for his sister and his sanity, but the wellbeing of the world is also at stake. The descendant of men who danced and sang on Alderley Edge to keep the stars in their courses and bring the sun back from winter death, Colin is a shaman, heir of the shamans of the ice age and ages long before. He needs to nd his own balance because his job is to keep the balance of the world. The rocks and caves of a reef of Triassic sandstone in Cheshire are the axis of the balance, the navel of the universe, the centre that must hold. That centre is also in a cave in Delphi, an island in the Klamath River of California, a thousand places on Earth, and the Earth itself as revealed to the astronaut Rusty Schweickart on a walk in space wherever human beings feel the depth of their connection to the world and take it as a sacred responsibility. Yet this universal connection is felt as deeply local. This place is the sacred place. More mythmaker than fantasist, Garner names his chosen, actual landscape minutely, feature by feature, stone by stone, relishing the old place-names and the grand vocabulary of geology, weaving the words into a litany of conrmation, the endless repetition that keeps the end from coming, the rhythmic dance on the worlds edge that maintains the world. Alderley Edge is the scene of a timeless ritual that must be reenacted over and over by ignorant and ephemeral mortals. Personal tragedy and redemption are subsumed in the cosmic vision. No wonder that the people of his story are less characters than masks, types, archetypes. But as imaginative literature reclaims the territories forbidden it by realism, and moves back from Eland towards the outskirts of Manchester, it treads on risky ground. Readers looking for more than mere adventure expect characters whose behaviour and reactions are humanly comprehensible. The child twins Colin and Susan were semi-characterless actors in a fantasy tale. Colin is both severely disturbed radio-astronomer and the man chosen from his generation to look after the Edge and how to reconcile these roles in a character in a modern novel? How are the pyschic suerings of a man so anachronistically fated and so emotionally crippled to be made comprehensible? The authors success hinges partly on his division of the character into two the 21st-century scientist Colin and an unnamed stone age ancestor. But in the end, his success must depend on the readers willingness to be teased through an imaginative labyrinth by allusions, hints, puzzles, and tricks such as unascribed dialogue and undescribed location. The process of Colins healing, the stages of therapy, the un-nesting of image within image, is fascinating, but the narration demands that the reader let the author manipulate and control, just as Colin is manipulated by the analyst. And she, in the end, appears to have been a witch or goddess: in a serious novel, this is again risky. Garner can count on the trust and admiration of many of his readers to see him through it, but my trust and admiration, though great, werent always sucient. No rereading has yet given me a clue to the meaning of the rst eight lines of Boneland. Is the allwise, wise-cracking, motorcycle-riding psychoanalyst the Witch-Crone or the Moon Mother? Is Susan one of the Pleiades? Is truth, as Garner would have it, not attainable through knowledge, only through belief? Where all the teases and all the risks pay o, for me, is in the shadow-story of the man who looked after the Edge so long ago, the solitary artistshaman of the ice age. These sections of the book are told in a charged, elliptical, symbolic, highly concrete language: He cut the veil of the rock; the hooves clattered the bellowing waters below him in the dark. The lamp brought the moon from the blade, and the blade the bull from the rock. The ice rang. You gure out what its all about gradually; as with poetry, learning another language, learning to see and think dierently, the demands and rewards are intense and real. It is this element of the book, in which the obsessions come into focus and a true balance is glimpsed, that will bring me back to Boneland, knowing Ill nd there what no other novelist has ever given us.
Ursula K Le Guins Lavinia is published by Phoenix. To order Boneland for 9.99 with free UK p&p call Guardian book service on 0330 333 6846 or go to

10 Review Saturday Guardian 01.09.12 FICTION

What was it like over there?


The girl vanishes

A stylish and violent Berlin-set thriller grips Cathi Unsworth
by her father, Dr Alban Mann: Janes new neighbours, the source of those rowing voices. Their rst meeting is cordial, if strained. As Jane watches the pair, her own childhood intrudes through her subconscious. The second time, she interrupts a vicious row and follows the eeing Anna into the churchyard, where the girl vanishes. Jane has seen and heard enough to be convinced that Dr Mann is abusing his daughter. Despite Petras protestations that she should keep out of their neighbours aairs, Jane cannot rest. Following a ickering light in the dead of night, she encounters Heike and Karl, the elderly couple on the ground oor. From them she learns of Annas mother, Greta, a former working girl who disappeared when Anna was two. Karl says she went to Hamburg, Heike that she was murdered and hidden in the bakehouse by a vengeful Alban, unable to tolerate the resumption of his wifes whoring ways. Though Heike is clearly in the throes of dementia, her story underlines Janes fears. She becomes obsessed with trying to save the recalcitrant Anna. With the whole of Berlin stretched before her, Janes focus narrows to the churchyard and the rotting bakehouse, the thought of her impending motherhood twisted into visions of gremlins and goblins, folk tales of tyrannical fathers and wicked stepmothers, abandoned children and murdered wives. They were the stu of legend, but the stu of life too. She follows Annas assignations with dodgy punks, interrogates streetwalkers, has ferocious arguments with Petra and generally does everything to put herself in harms way. Yet for the uneasy reader, the fear is not for Jane but rather for what Jane will do to those around her, or inside her. The Girl on the Stairs feels like a ghost story. Taking place in a haunted city, the books knowing evocation of Dont Look Now, Du Mauriers Venice-set story, is sharpened by the fact that this mother is not grieving the loss of a child but anticipating a birth. Yet what Welsh knows, and brings to a bloody conclusion, is that no supernatural manifestation of our darkest hours is any match for what real human beings can do to each other.
Cathi Unsworths latest novel is Weirdo (Serpents Tail). To order The Girl on the Stairs for 13.59 with free UK p&p call Guardian book service on 0330 333 6846 or go to

A debut bearing witness to the US occupation of Iraq is essential reading. By John Burnside
The Yellow Birds
by Kevin Powers 184pp, Sceptre, 14.99 We were not destined to survive. The fact is we were not destined at all. The war would take whatever it could get. It was patient. It didnt care about objectives, or boundaries, whether you were loved by many or not at all. While I slept that summer, the war came to me in my dreams and showed me its sole purpose: to go on, only to go on. The young soldier speaking these words is John Bartle, a private in the US army of occupation in Iraq. He is soon to witness a horrifying yet oddly casual shooting and will later be implicated in an act that, while it is committed for the best motive, will almost destroy both his mind and any lingering moral sense he may still possess on his discharge after two years of service on the battleelds of Nineveh province. His co-conspirator in that act is his sergeant, a brilliantly dened gung-ho nihilist named Sterling, about whom John feels the most disturbing kind of ambivalence: I hated the way he excelled in death and brutality and domination. But more than that, I hated the way he was necessary, how I needed him to jar me into action even when they were trying to kill me, how I felt like a coward until he screamed into my ear Shoot these hajji fucks! I hated the way I loved him when I inched up out of the terror and returned re, seeing him shooting too, smiling the whole time, screaming, the whole rage and hate of these few acres, alive and spreading, in and through him. Like his narrator, Kevin Powers was a soldier in Iraq for two years, serving in Mosul and Tal Afar. In a brief preface he says that The Yellow Birds began as an attempt to reckon with one question: what was it like over there? However, he quickly decided that he was unequal to that task, because war is only like itself. This is a perennial problem in trying to describe those experiences that relatively few share: war, madness, extreme violence or suering, spiritual

The Girl on the Stairs

by Louise Welsh 288pp, John Murray, 16.99 Libraries are lled with stories about generations of brutal men, trapped in a cycle of aggression, the American noir author Gillian Murray said recently, on the motivation for her bestselling Sharp Objects. I wanted to write about the violence of women. Louise Welsh has never been one to shy away from that subject. Although all four of her previous protagonists have been men, each of her timetravelling ctions evokes the lives of women living in the margins, from the Elizabethan hookers of Tamburlaine Must Die to the magicians assistants in The Bullet Trick. Rilke in The Cutting Room investigates what seems to be a snu-porn murder, and Dr Watson from Naming the Bones chases the ghost of an infamous poet and the ame-haired witch bride who supposedly dragged him to his doom. Informed by her love of gothic ction, burlesque and the bizarre, Welsh writes women whom men long for and fear in equal measure so much so as to make their lives dangerous. But never before has she concentrated so ercely on the violence of women as in The Girl on the Stairs. Arriving in Berlin on a bleak November night, Jane is heavily pregnant and still unsure whether its a good idea. Her glamorous German partner Petra has set them up in an apartment in trendy Mitte. Inside, its all Starck Ghost chairs and mirrored bathrooms. Outside, however, the iron spire of St Sebastians church and the deserted apartment block are to Jane uncomfortable reminders of her Glasgow girlhood. Worse is to come. Shouting in the night; a harsh male voice repeating the word whore; what sounds like a child sobbing. The next morning, with Petra gone early to her oce, Jane catches sight of a girl crossing the yard towards the bakehouse dressed in a hooded red coat. She turns, revealing a youthful face slathered in make-up. Later, Jane will encounter her again on the stairs, and be introduced to 13-year-old Anna

visions all of these are only like themselves. But the fact is that, while they cannot be fully conveyed in words, the work of bearing witness to create what Powers calls the cartography of one mans consciousness is essential; and while few will have expected the war in Iraq to bring forth a novel that can stand beside All Quiet on the Western Front or The Red Badge of Courage, The Yellow Birds does just that, for our time, as those books did for theirs. In the creation of his three principals, moreover, Powers has given us a highly sensitive and perceptive portrayal of men at war: the mysterious, vulnerable Murph and the brutal but enormously damaged Sterling are wonderfully delineated, and it is no accident that the central characters surname makes us think of Melvilles Bartleby, another man numbed to the point where, in the end, all he can do is refuse to perform the few simple acts that would preserve him. No doubt it will seem rash to make such references in praise of a rst novel, but they are dicult to resist after a close reading of this extraordinary

work: the nal vision alone, in which a young mans tortured and broken but also transgured body is washed away by the slow current of the Tigris is both highly risky and beautifully accomplished, the mark of an artist of the rst order. The Yellow Birds is a must-read book, not only because it bears witness to this particular war, but also because it ekes out some scant but vital vision of humanity from its shame and incomprehensible violence. The rest is history, they say. Bullshit, I say. Its imagination or its nothing, and must be, because what is created in this world, or made, can be undone, unmade; the threads of a rope can be unwoven. And if that rope is needed as a guideline for a ferry to a farther shore then one must invent a way to weave it back, or there will be drownings in the streams that cross our paths. I accept now, though in truth it took some time, that must must be its own permission.
John Burnsides Black Cat Bone is published by Jonathan Cape. To order The Yellow Birds for 11.99 with free UK p&p call Guardian book service on 0330 333 6846 or go to

Scorching the lobster

A savage satire on Irelands property boom impresses Stevie Davies
Irelands boom. At the airport to meet the returnee is Hickey, old schoolmate, corrupt builder, with a nancial proposition. And on the phone is his unseen mentor and demon, the sinister Monsieur Deauville. Is it credible that the patrician Tristram is so matey with the foulmouthed Hickey? Dont ask. There are no realistic characters in The Devil I Know, only savage caricatures. In this carnivalesque allegory of Irelands property boom, Claire Kilroy presents a satiric danse macabre of brio and linguistic virtuosity. The proteers are an array of vulpine nasties and asinine greedies whove sold both soul and reason to Old Nick. Tristram, scion of an ancient Anglo-Norman house, has unknowingly sold his birthright for a mess of potage. As the novel opens, the year is 2016 and Tristram is testifying at a tribunal delving into the Celtic Tigers dodgy dealings. Kilroys novel is a fable whose moral we already know: Ireland, spending money it didnt have, lost everything it did have. Its a dark divertimento that runs on linguistic verve and energy, a madly saturnalian style for a berserk era. Her Ireland is populated by ghouls and asses, with Tristram harbouring a bit of both. As in Tristram Shandy, another cock and bull story, the heros brain is a imsy organ: Sternes Tristram acknowledges, So often has my judgment deceived me in my life, that I always suspect it. Kilroys Tristram, appointed Director, Castle Holdings, exists in a state of existential baement, goggling at the fact that his shell company bought nothing, sold nothing, manufactured nothing, did nothing, with tremen? dous prots. Me? I was only the conduit, he tells the judge. body But indeed nobody in the book understands the nature of money. ng Moneys something provided by ded banks, to be handed to corrupt sters government ministers such as s Ray Lawless. This bent politican arrives in person to collect his oured bribe, a rain-coloured man carrying o a Jiy Bag stued with cash under his arm rand like a hog. The grand mes dreams and schemes key, cherished by Hickey, Viking and the other wannabebillionaires are all funded by debt. The prostitution of the motherland to property developers begins in Tristrams cession of his maternal inheritance, Hilltop, for an apartment complex whose value increases exponentially by the day. The ventures of the so-called Golden Circle hyperinate to plans for a new urban quarter for Dublin, to annex London, to purchase Britain, Shanghai, the world. The wine drunk by these dreamers is rich in tannin, blackenli ing their lips, hearts, T souls. They laugh in a medieval disp display of mettle tle, padding aro around the bo boardroom in an exhau hausted delirium, the mark th of the plague s still staining their lips. A black blackly comic a aatus swells unt until its essen sential bathos p punctures it. I was reminded of Ben Jonsons Sir Epicure Mammon and the Jacobean world of The Alchemist and Volpone but Kilroys banal modern clones lack lascivious imagination. They are all the same. Boyler, Coyler, Doyler, sitting sharpening their knives. What The Devil I Know fails to do is to give the reader a sense of how the grand scam aected ordinary people when, with the international banking crisis, the world economy collapsed. On the other hand, its feeling for the rape of nature, both landscape and animals, is powerful and poignant. The scene of lobsters being barbecued is one I shall inchingly remember: the intoxicated proteers dont bother to kill them before cooking, and the seared creatures escape, dropping to the oor, scurrying for shelter, stamped on and replaced. And still they wont die. Christ its still alive. The insult to nature is not the least of the squanderers sins and a sign of their twisted minds. The savage indignation of such a scene taps into the darkness of the nest Irish satire.
Stevie Daviess Into Suez is published by Parthian. To order The Devil I Know for 10.39 with free UK p&p call Guardian book service on 0330 333 6846 or go to

The Devil I Know

by Claire Kilroy 363pp, Faber, 12.99 Tristram Amory St Lawrence, 13th Earl of Howth, latterly of Finnegans Wake, hospitalised dead-drunk in Belgium and generally believed defunct, has been resurrected and dried out and now returns to his native Ireland, where a gorgeous pint of stout tempts him. There it stands, mouthwateringly: My darkest depths were in that vessel, a chalice I had crossed the earth to evade I was holding my soul, distilled into liquid and aching to be reunited with my body. Tristram refrains from tasting it, though afterwards, on his way to an AA meeting, he surreptitiously suckled the knuckle the stout had doused. Its only a matter of time, for, suckler or sucker, Tristram shares in the infantilism of his compatriots as they savour


Photograph by Sarah Lee for the Guardian

Junot Daz I was the super-nerdy kid who was also willing to fight
Interview by Nicholas Wroe
hen Junot Daz published his debut collection of linked stories, Drown, in 1996, it appeared that the trajectory of his writing career had been set. Located in the barrios of New Jersey and the Dominican Republic, and ltered through the sensibility of a poor immigrant who made it to Rutgers University, the then 27-yearolds dispatches from his community separated from all the other communities by a six lane highway and the dump, as he said at the time became a New York literary sensation. Prizes, commercial and critical acclaim, and attendant stories of large advances came accompanied by invitations to fancy parties and an assumption that Daz had embarked on a long and fruitful career. As things turned out he attended few of the literary parties I discovered early that as an artist there was absolutely nothing wrong with being surrounded by people who were not dedicated to your eld and the money didnt last forever, not least because, far from becoming a xture on the bestseller lists, Daz didnt produce another book for 12 years. Even I thought I would be a writer who put something out every year, he says now. But thats not how it worked out. However, despite the silence, his reputation, and, more surprisingly, his prole, remained strong. When The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao a novel about a fat Dominican nerd, complete with Dungeons and Dragons dredged from my own nerd closet, which Im sure my publishers wouldnt have expected after Drown did emerge in 2008 it won the Pulitzer prize for ction. This month he publishes his third book, This Is How You Lose Her, in which he returns to the characters and settings from Drown. There was a lot of background indelity in Drown, he explains. And I knew I wanted to write another book of linked stories about the rise and fall of a cheater. I also wanted to return to the brothers cancer. He just disappears in Drown. You never get a sense of what happens to him. This Is How You Lose Her once again features Yunior, Dazs alter ego through whom he engages with the intersection of race, gender, immigration and class. Like Dazs brother, Yuniors brother contracted cancer, although Dazs brother survived. Like Yunior, Daz has a back problem he constantly

has to alternate between standing and sitting as a result of delivering pool tables to pay his way through college. Our cancer stories are dierent, but what they share is a young person getting an early masterclass in mortality. I put the back problem in the very last rewrite having been working on that story for six years. It was the perfect punchline. The last piece of shit to throw on him. I furnish Yunior with a lot of my stu so I dont have to buy anything new and while friends of mine can see small elements of me in him, Ive spun him a little sharper to stand out more starkly. I dont go to his extremes of cruelty and nor do I have his Byronesque sensibilities. There is a lot of scepticism today as to whether memoir is real. But when ction is done at a certain level there is scepticism as to whether it is really ction. Daz, like Yunior, was born in 1968 in Santa Domingo, capital of the Dominican Republic. His father left to work in America shortly afterwards, and the family was eventually reunited in New Jersey when Daz, his mother and siblings he is the third of ve emigrated in 1974. Just as Dazs stories straightforwardly accept that Yunior and some of his friends can be both ghetto kids and college kids the narratives of street life are seamlessly punctuated by references to NYU, or to tenure or to Joyce classes he says there was always a category anxiety around me. Two of his siblings spent time in prison, while another has gone on to become a lawyer. Im of African descent and my sister looks completely black, but I didnt look black. I was the super-nerdy kid who was also willing to ght. I love comics and SF but am hopeless with technology. I am still better with a pick or shovel, even with my bad back, than I am with computers. He says his remarkable use of language his Spanglish is just one example of worlds colliding was part of an attempt to unite the various parts of himself. I was from a very strict and conformist family, so it wasnt even permissible to cohere between home and the streets. Then came college and so on. In artistic terms it took a lot longer to work out than it should have. There are protocols in writing that are used to simplify things. It takes a while for an artist to work out that they can be broken. One of the contradictions of Americas insane capitalism is that you will meet people like me who have lived in three or four worlds. Maybe its to do with the fact that Im straight and male, but I never saw any value in sealing o my background. I was critical, but I never felt one of the options was to entirely reject it. But it did take a long time for me to talk to my friends

at home about the kind of books I read and the kind of politics I was interested in at college. It also took a long time for me to take my home into this larger and more intellectual world. At Rutgers in the late 80s and early 90s, both at college and in various bluecollar jobs, including in a steelworks, Daz was exposed to leftwing politics around race South Africa and the LA riots and gender. It was perfect for me. My father was a prodictatorship Dominican who fought on the side of the Americans during the invasion, but even as a kid I was super-left, although it was all a bit messed up and I was also homophobic as hell. Im still politically radical, unfortunately. My students he teaches at MIT think its hilarious. They nd my leftwing ideas quaint and charming and want to have a picture taken next to me. While class and race politics were more visibly to the fore in Drown, This Is How You Lose Her is more obviously informed by feminist ideas. I grew up in a very segregated masculine world and I became fascinated by the way we represent ourselves in public. The disconnect between who we said we were and who we really were. There is nothing sadder than a 40 or 50-year-old man struggling with a mask that they have to be tough and constantly aggres-

sive. I modelled Yuniors struggle on my earlier self in that it wasnt until my late 20s that I began to realise this shit doesnt work. Over the 16 years this book took to write I always pictured this image of Yunior having this terrible metal mask that he is trying to tear o his face, all the while not sure whether he still has a face underneath it. e claims if you are a straight man, the litmus test of your humanity is your relationship with women. The omnipresent indelity in the book follows Yunior from childhood, when he was dragged along on his fathers pussy runs, to his 40s, and the consequences of his own broken relationships take their toll. The entire culture leads us towards dehumanising women in our imaginations. I and my male friends could not have been as fucked-up in our relationships, or done the things we did in our relationships, if we felt that women were truly human. Because once you empathise that they are indeed human, you become incapable of hurting them. There is nothing that makes you think twice about ghting so much as getting your face broken. Yunior gets a romantic face-breaker and begins to understand what he has been doing throughout his adult life. Daz says he is unsure whether Yunior will return I write so darn slowly its dicult to say but while the next book will denitely not be about him, I would want to write a more traditional novel about his crazy life. Since the long hiatus after Drown, Daz says he has become more comfortable with his pace of working. I put way too much pressure on myself for a while. Its easy to self-dramatise, but after Drown I went through so many relationships, so many apartments and so much fucking liquor. What a dick! But eventually you calm down. And, in hindsight, he sees value in the long wait. I know good things made it into Oscar Wao that simply wouldnt have come up if Id been able to write it in

The entire culture leads us towards dehumanising women in our imaginations

six months. It does take time to see things properly. He says as a kid there were so many secrets in his family that he became attuned to looking beneath the surface of things. For instance we didnt know that one of our siblings was a halfsibling, but we did know that something was up. That was good training to be in a family where you really had to keep your ears and eyes open. Then you go into the world and you see secrets everywhere in plain sight. His next book will be a monster, zombie, alien invasion story that my sister might read. Having a reader in mind is just a way of setting the bar high and hoping they give good marks. In this case my sister will be holding up the cards. She is a very smart person who doesnt like bullshit, so Im trying to do something straightforward that is also intense and funny. As to the wider state of ction he acknowledges a declining readership and that writers do not have the same general appeal they had 30 years ago. Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer would be on the Johnny Carson just talking about their new novels. Now you can only get on Jon Stewart if you talk about an issue raised in your novel. Spaces for contemplation and deliberation have been greatly reduced. Most people dont spend two or three hours thinking or reading. Books seem to be artefacts from a slower time. But as an editor on the Boston Review, encouraging ction submissions from young writers, he declares himself hopeful. Books are surviving in this intense, fragmented, hyperaccelerated present, and my sense and hope is that things will slow down again and people will want more time for a contemplative life. There is no way people can keep up this pace. No one is happy. Two or three hours to read should not be an unattainable thing, although I hope we get to that stage without needing a corporate sponsored app to hold our hand. The utopian in me has my ngers crossed that we havent quite gured out the digital future just yet. After all, the one thing we know about people: they always surprise.

12 Review Saturday Guardian 01.09.12 ARTS The pre-Raphaelites were the YBAs of their day shocking and controversial. A major new Tate show emphasises their art as anti-sentimental and politically radical. It also takes seriously the movements pioneering women artists, writes Fiona MacCarthy

Brothers and sisters

he Tates last exhibition of preRaphaelite art, held in a now distant 1984, was a rather dully chronological aair. According to one critic, the treatment seemed to symbolise a newly conservative reading of the pre-Raphaelites. Greenery-yallery to Laura Ashley. A press photograph shows Margaret Thatcher at the opening alongside Arthur Hughess April Love.

With 250 exhibits this was a catch-all survey. I remember emerging from it reeling with exhaustion. It succeeded in what one might have thought would be impossible. It managed to make the pre-Raphaelites bland. The current exhibition will be altogether dierent: leaner, more thematic, more politically charged. Women will be better represented. (Not dicult, considering that only two paintings by one woman, Elizabeth Siddal, were included in 1984.) Alongside pre-Raphaelite paintings and

drawings will be sculpture, photography and prize examples of pre-Raphaelite furniture and textiles, emphasising the wide reach of a movement that was ercely revolutionary in its aims. So what exactly was the pre-Raphaelite brotherhood? Forget the bodiceripping TV drama Desperate Romantics, which belittled the pre-Raphaelites as sexual desperadoes. These were ardent, ambitious and serious artists and poets. Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais were the leaders of the movement formed in

James Meek on Anna Karenina page 14

1848. The pre-Raphaelite brotherhood embodied protest. William Morris was later to describe it as a really audacious attempt to reject the prevailing academic forms of art in favour of truth to nature. It was an audacity that applied to literature as much as to painting and the decorative arts. They called themselves pre-Raphaelites deantly, taking up the purist values of pre-renaissance art of the period immediately before Raphael, drawing on the past to make their own mid 19th-century artistic revolution. We need to remember these were still very young men. Holman Hunt was 21, Rossetti only 20, Millais just 19. They formed a cohesive in-group, shutting out the unbelievers. Their dazzling manifesto on the true meaning of art proved terribly obscure to both the critics and the public. They were clever and sardonic. Their irreverence still makes them seem curiously modern. Alison Smith, cocurator of the Tate exhibition, is surely right in seeing the pre-Raphaelites as the rst modern art movement and in subtitling her show Victorian AvantGarde. They were radical in their ways of looking, viewing their subjects with an intense psychological acumen. They were radical, too, in their techniques of painting. That pre-Raphaelite superrealism was achieved through meticulous attention to detail. The artists preferred painting outside the studio, the strange and often shocking candour of their vision exaggerated by the eects of natural light. The brotherhood was wonderfully wilful and obsessive. In the middle 1850s Holman Hunt spent two years working in the Holy Land. The weirdest and most controversial painting he returned with was The Scapegoat. The background had been painted in situ on the shores of the Dead Sea, site of the city of abominations, Sodom, while the goat itself was posed back in Jerusalem, standing in a tray of salt crystals and authentic Dead Sea mud. Hunts complex symbolism bemused and angered people. If we can compare 1850s PRBs and 1990s YBAs (and in terms of shock value we denitely can) then The Scapegoat nds its obvious parallel in Damien Hirsts shark. PRBs were avant-garde in undermining the expected. Millaiss painting Christ in the House of His Parents was seen as sacrilegious on account of its extreme verisimilitude and quirkiness. The conventional saccharine quality of Victorian religious art was absent. Millaiss Christ child, shown with a symbolic bleeding palm, was described by Charles Dickens as a hideous, wrynecked, blubbering, red-haired boy in a nightgown who appeared to have received a poke playing in an adjacent gutter, while his kneeling mother would stand out from the rest of the company as a monster in the vilest cabaret in France or in the lowest ginshop in England. The pre-Raphaelite father gure Ford Madox Brown was indignantly attacked for The Pretty Baa-Lambs, an

What was startling was their sheer conviction that art could alter society itself


Rosa Bretts Mouse, circa 1860 (main). Above: William Morriss bed from Kelmscott Manor, with hangings by Jane and May Morris

unsentimentalised plein air painting of his raw-red-cheeked wife and little daughter, derided by one critic as a facetious experiment. Brown had broken the rules of domestic guardedness. The pre-Raphaelite artists were not afraid to tackle such problematic topics as poor law legislation, prostitution or the prevailing sexual double standards. They were pioneers in the way that they embedded moral meaning within the visual message. What was startlingly unusual was their sheer conviction that art could alter society itself. Edward Burne-Jones was a neurotic teenager in Birmingham when the brotherhood was formed. William Morris was unhappily at boarding school at Marlborough. But in the late 1850s, when they both arrived in London, they were absorbed into pre-Raphaelite circles as protgs of Rossetti. It was with this second generation of pre-Raphaelites that the movement reached its true maturity. Why has this not been recognised before?

ne reason is the long-prevailing snobbery among art historians and curators in giving higher status to pictures than to objects. Previous pre-Raphaelite shows have focused entirely on paintings and drawings in spite of the fact that one of the main planks of pre-Raphaelite reform was a call for unity of all the arts. The young reformers argued that architecture, furniture, wallpaper and textiles, illustrated books should stand in equal

status with travelling pictures, as Burne-Jones rudely termed them. These ideas were later to be widely inuential on the arts and crafts movement and indeed the bauhaus, as the recent exhibition at the Barbican so brilliantly showed. Pre-Raphaelite politics have also been evaded. In previous surveys the political ferocity that fuelled these angry young men of mid-Victorian Britain has been considered far beyond the remit of curatorial politesse. In 1996, on the centenary of Morriss death, when the V&A held a massive Morris exhibition, his socialist activities were crammed apologetically into a small corner. And yet it would be argued by those who know their Morris that politics were the very essence of the man. The new exhibition promises for the rst time to give serious attention to the politics of art and the shimmering contradictions of a movement that combined the love of history, mythology and the classics with scientic study of natural phenomena and scathing contempt for the contemporary scene. These contradictions meet most spectacularly in the work of BurneJones, whose reputation, once so dire that in 1942 the Tate was able to buy Love and the Pilgrim for 42, is now on something of a roll. He emerges from this show as prime pre-Raphaelite myth-maker with the magnicent Perseus cycle (over here from Stuttgart) and the Tates own King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid, now authentically reframed. Every Burne-Jones myth painting bears its own stark message, based on his bitter experience of growing up in

Birmingham: the squalor caused by reckless industrial expansion, the absence of beauty in the vast majority of human lives. Morris too was mad on myths. While he was still at Oxford, he signed up for the Arthurian way of life, inspired by reading Southeys translation of Malorys Le Morte dArthur. He even commissioned his own Arthurian-style helmet from a local Oxford smith. Burne-Jones describes how Morris, always a cartoonable gure, got locked into it, hollering and swearing from inside. When Morris married, he built his own house, Red House at Bexleyheath in Kent, as a red-brick Camelot, turreted and magical. Youll see in the exhibition the extraordinary Prioresss Tale wardrobe painted by Burne-Jones as a wedding present for Morris and his wife. This stood in their bedroom in the building which Rossetti described rightly as more a poem than a house. Red House became a pre-Raphaelite powerhouse, headquarters of Morriss vociferous and marvellous campaign against the age. Finding nothing in the shops that he could bear to live with, Morris brought in his brother artists to decorate Red House, working together to design and make furnishings in an early example of community arts. The style Morris espoused was the handmade, the vernacular. What business have we with art at all unless all can share it? he asked with his straightforward, almost childlike sense of fairness. The exhibition shows us some beautiful examples of Morriss designs for wallpapers and fabrics, which drew on natural motifs of birds and owers and countryside, an aesthetic that appealed to people of all classes and indeed all cultures. He saw the point of pattern as a binder together of people of any nationality. What Morris loathed was waste and clutter, the cynical pretentiousness of 19th-century factory-made products. I have never been in any rich mans house, Morris said, which would not look the better for having a bonre made outside it of nine-tenths of all that it held. A view that still holds good? Tate Britain has enlisted Mrs Morris as the exhibitions poster girl. How could it do otherwise, when Janey Morris, as depicted by Rossetti in Astarte Syriaca, has come to personify the pre-Raphaelite femme fatale? The seductive gaze and bee-sting lips are in fact a bit misleading. The reality of Janey was more tentative, more practical. She liked a irtation, certainly: after Rossetti came Wilfrid Scawen Blunt. But as a mother she was careful and responsible, as well as a skilled embroideress, a talent she passed on to her younger daughter, May. Morris, though hurt, was generously tolerant towards his wifes emotional excursions, believing that no one is another persons keeper. Janey and May together stitched the hangings for Morriss fantastical four-poster bed for Kelmscott Manor, another of the highlights of the exhibition. The pre-Raphaelite world saw a merging of the classes with a foretaste of the daring social exibility we were later to experience in 1960s London. Janey Morris was an Oxford ostlers daughter. Ford Madox Browns wife, Emma, had been the illiterate daughter

of a farmer. Holman Hunt discovered his inamorata Annie Miller working as a barmaid in a pub in Chelsea and paid for her deportment and elocution lessons. Rossetti met the amboyant Fanny Cornforth in the Strand, where she was chassing along cracking walnuts with her teeth. Alongside the obvious excitements of sexual adventure lay chivalric attitudes of rescue and reform. The romantic image of the woman as co-worker was potent. Rossetti gave practical encouragement to Lizzie Siddals serious ambitions as an artist. The ideal of the skilled woman in the workshop was to be a feature of arts and crafts communities from William Morris on. Recent feminist scholarship reveals how far the brotherhood was a hitherto-neglected pre-Raphaelite sisterhood as well. Among the many treats in the exhibition are paintings by Rosa Brett, elder sister of the better-known preRaphaelite landscape artist John Brett, and photographs by Julia Margaret Cameron, whose technical skills and poetic bravura in the composition of her pictures took her to the heights of pre-Raphaelite art. The exhibition gives us the rare chance to compare Lizzie Siddals gawky, tender pen and ink drawing The Lady of Shalott with Holman Hunts much larger, highervoltage, more hysterical oil painting of this favourite Victorian subject. This pre-Raphaelite masterpiece, lent by the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hertford, Connecticut, has not been seen in this country since it went on show in Bournemouth as part of the Festival of Britain celebrations in 1951. What makes this exhibition so important and so timely is the chance it gives us to see the hidden depths of a movement in which the artists quasireligious searching after new artistic standards was inextricably linked to contemporary intellectual debates and

practical ideals of social reform. Look at Ford Madox Brown, represented here by his great panorama Work, which raises what were then stridently controversial issues on the relative value of the thinkers and the workers, the labouring classes and the employers. Brown was also the artist with the practical energy to open soup kitchens for the starving and a labour exchange for the unemployed in Manchester. Look again at gay pre-Raphaelite Simeon Solomon, the Jewish artist viewed by Burne-Jones as their rising genius, whose promising career came to an end in 1873 when he was arrested in a public lavatory and charged with attempting to commit sodomy. Tate Britain exhibits two of his works, a revealing self-portrait drawing and the beautiful androgynous oil painting Bacchus. At last we start to glimpse this lost pre-Raphaelites potential signicance as early undercover homosexual artist and interpreter of Jewish identity. But the absolute star of the show is Morris. A whole section, Earthly Paradise, charts what now seems his inevitable progression from the relative backwater of the artist-craftsman to the dangerous exposure of the political activist. As William Gaunt put it: His early attachment to King Arthur had led him irresistibly to Karl Marx. Here we see the ultimate example of preRaphaelite radicalism in action as Morris, in the 1880s, enters the mele of socialist revolutionary politics, nally exasperated by his role in ministering to the swinish luxury of the rich. Here are Morriss Chants for Socialists, rousing revolutionary choruses composed by the man who had once been the favourite poet of the bourgeoisie. Here is a ercely argued, crudely printed pamphlet on Monopoly; or How Labour is Robbed. And here is his widely inuential novel News from Nowhere, a vision of the future beyond the revolution, in which government buildings have been turned into a dung house and a classless, beautifully dressed and happily productive form of society has emerged. This was a book read avidly in Russia in the years before the Soviet revolution. All in all, this has been quite a year for William Morris. First the opening of the restored and redesigned William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow, the house where Morris spent his teenage years, and now his emergence as the noblest and most interesting of preRaphaelites. His ideas were precursors of our present-day concern for protecting the environment. He regarded beauty as everybodys birthright. His generous magnitude of vision, and his hatred of commercial greed and political chicanery, connects the preRaphaelite era to our own.
Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde is at Tate Britain, London SW1 from 12 September-13 January 2013.

We are delighted to announce the merger of the Ecologist with Resurgence two outstanding publications of the environmental movement. The rst joint issue is out now. Contributors include Zac Goldsmith MP, Jonathon Porritt, Fiona Reynolds, Charles Secrett, Andy Atkins and many others. You can purchase this for 4.95 at Waitrose or from
If you would like to receive six copies of Resurgence & Ecologist a year for 30 in the UK (18 online) contact Jeanette Gill on 01208 841824 or email Resurgence & Ecologist presents The Festival of Wellbeing: The Great Transition from economic growth to growth in wellbeing. This will take place on 15 September at the Bishopsgate Institute, London. Speakers include Lord Richard Layard, Caroline Lucas MP, Polly Higgins, Nic Marks, Satish Kumar others. Tickets 45 including lunch. Contact Lynn Batten on 01237 441 293 or or

14 Review Saturday Guardian 01.09.12 REREADING As a new lm of Anna Karenina, with a screenplay by Tom Stoppard, opens in cinemas, James Meek reects on how Tolstoys great novel of lovers thwarted by convention dramatises the clash between old restrictions and new freedoms

A slave to truth
hat is it about Anna Karenina that gives it special status among the great novels? How is it that a sensational romantic tragedy of tsarist high society, interspersed with digressions into 19thcentury Russian agricultural policy, written in a seemingly plain, straightforward style across 900 pages, still provokes both excitement and respect from readers as diverse as JM Coetzee, Jonathan Franzen and Oprah Winfrey, and lures Tom Stoppard to write the script for the latest of a dozen lm adaptations? The book oats in some charmed section of the lake of literary opinion where the ripples from modernism and the ripples from Hollywood overlap without merging. It is more admired than learned from. Anna Karenina couldnt be less like a conventional modern novel. Instead of a barrage of metaphors describing things in terms of other things that they resemble, Lev Tolstoy seeks the precise word for the thing itself. Instead of the solipsistic modern mode of events being experienced from the point of view of a single character, Tolstoy slips in and out of the consciousness of dozens of characters, major and minor. At one point he tells us what a characters dog is thinking. Tolstoy doesnt believe in show, dont tell. He likes to show and tell. The teller, the narrator of the book, is a formless, omniscient voice with no elaborate Rothian construct to justify his role. No rst-person or free-indirect speech here. Even while were in a characters head, its the narrator who recounts the characters experiences through liberal use of such unfashionable phrases as she thought, he felt and it seemed to him that. Tolstoy creates a space for the narrators independence the narrator is close enough to the characters to rely on them for his existence, but free enough to pass unchallenged judgment on their actions, and to tell us things about them that they dont know about themselves. The most powerful passages are those where Tolstoy slows time down to note each thought, gesture and feeling of Anna and her lover Vronsky, with a third entity present the narrator not only lodged deep in the two psyches, but standing back to tell us the ways in which one is misunderstanding the other. Each time I reread Anna Karenina, picking my way past the attics and cellars and rusting machinery of Tolstoys obsessions and prejudices, a new layer of his craft emerges, to the point where, for all my admiration of Joyce, Beckett and Kelman, I begin to question whether the novel form isnt too artisanal a medium for the surface experimentation of the modernist project ever to transcend the exing of space and time that apparently conventional language can achieve in the hands of a master. Id noticed before that Tolstoy, whose characters spend so much time in Moscow and St Petersburg, barely describes these cities. Reading Anna Karenina again, I see that its more extreme than that; urban buildings and landscapes are practically invisible, whereas the countryside is described in exquisite detail. To Tolstoy the city is a static, articial place. It is as if he does not believe cities are permanent, as though he feels that if he ignores them, theyll go away. It turns out that everything Tolstoy cares about, everything he describes taking place outside the characters heads, is alive and moving, in the non-human world of dogs and horses and leaves as in the human world. No human action is too small to be recorded: Karenins knuckle-cracking, Anna screwing up her eyes, Vronsky touching the ends of his moustache. The characters are always smiling, frowning, blushing, twitching, dgeting, touching, kissing, bowing, sobbing, and deconstructing these signs in each other. They come to us alive with intentionality, describing themselves in movement, waltzing through the ballroom, trudging through the marsh after wildfowl, racing horses, cutting hay. As busily as Tolstoys creations move through space, so plausibly they move through time. How hard it is in narrative ction, be it novel or lm, to represent the chaotic reality of the passage of time, when the way a person acts or thinks one moment doesnt necessarily have a direct connection to the way that person acts or thinks 10 minutes later, or the next day, or for the rest of their life. No other novelist I can think of takes the risks Tolstoy does with the readers understanding of what his characters are by allowing the characters to be so true to the emotions of each particular moment, even when those emotions contradict the overall portrait. The most odious characters are never beyond momentary redemption, and the most admirable characters must endure patches of vileness. One harsh, simplistic, but not entirely inaccurate reading of Anna Karenina is as Tolstoys justication of his life up to the moment when he wrote it, through the character of his alter ego, the chippy, idealistic landowner Levin (Levin = little Lev), whose journey to faith, family and contentment down on the farm acts as a counterpoint to Annas path of extramarital passion and death in the Babylon of the urban beau monde. Yet Tolstoy doesnt spare Levin, the character with whom he is most in sympathy. When Levin is out shooting with a friend at dusk and summons the courage to ask after Kitty, the young woman he loves but who turned down his oer of marriage, he learns that shes still free and is seriously ill. At this moment of high drama and revelation, two woodcocks y over, and he forgets about Kitty in the excitement of shooting the birds. Now, what was that unpleasant thing? he thinks afterwards. Oh yes, Kittys ill. Back at the house he admits to himself that while hes glad shes still available, hes even more pleased that shes sick; serves her right, he thinks. Its not attractive for Levin to feel this schadenfreude towards the woman he wants to share his life with, or to have the overight of a small game bird blot out all thoughts of her just when hes heard she might be dying. But Tolstoy has the condence to relay these secret moments of unlove, certain rightly that by being true to his weakness in one particular instant in time he will make Levin more real and human without poisoning the instants of time to come, when Levin will show himself more like the man he wants to be.

ll Tolstoys mastery of time, space and language come together in a single moment in the middle of the book, when Annas estranged husband Alexei Karenin, a dry, sti government minister, and her lover Vronsky, a handsome young cavalry ocer, meet beside the bed where Anna lies gravely ill after giving birth to Vronskys child. Grief-stricken and ashamed, Vronsky is covering his face with his hands; Anna orders her husband, who is also weeping, to pull the hands away and expose her lovers face. With that gesture, Anna eects a reversal in the status of the two men. Vronsky, who had despised Karenin because he wouldnt ght a duel, is now humiliated and dishonoured; Karenin, ooded with forgiveness for everyone, wins back Annas respect. In that moment of time, with Anna seemingly dying, the transformation is quite real. But time shifts, and the old reality comes back. Anna gets better and hates Karenin more than ever for his forgiveness. Vronsky restores his honour by shooting himself (he misses). The arc of Annas destruction resumes. In the novel there are no turning points, only points, and characters travelling through them. For a spacious novel so concerned with families theres a mysterious absence at the heart of Anna Karenina. The heroine has no childhood. She comes equipped with a son, a dull older husband, a brother, friends, a place in high society, but no past, no younger self. There is no description of how she came to be married. Her parents are, presumably, dead, and are never mentioned. She is fully formed, ready to fall in love with the dashing Vronsky.

Its not just Anna. Most of the other principal characters have no forebears on the scene. Levin was, like Tolstoy, orphaned at an early age. Vronskys mother is occasionally present but when we rst encounter him Tolstoy quickly tells us: Vronsky never knew family life. Although children as characters are present only in the background (with one brief exception), the book is preoccupied with the parent-child relationship: with having or not having children, with choosing between paternalmaternal and romantic-sexual love, or working out what to tell children when they ask what life is for. And the novel is about children in a deeper way, one that speaks to the stretched-out generations of the rich world now, where people in their 20s, 30s and 40s expect to have parents who are still alive and constantly reassure each other that they are young that they are, in eect, still children. Anna, Vronsky and Levin are in their early 30s, young in todays terms, but Tolstoy doesnt provide them with an earlier generation to backstop them, or to be remembered. They are obliged to stand independently as grown men and women. This means following an existing set of social rules, like Vronsky (One must pay ones gambling debts, but need not pay ones tailor; one must not tell a man a lie, but one may lie to a woman), or breaking rules, as Anna does, or inventing their own set of rules, as Levin tries to do. They can have children they should, in Tolstoys view, have children but they cannot be children. However, among the principal characters, there is an intriguing exception: Stiva Oblonsky. Its the Oblonskys, not the Karenins, who are referred to in the novels famous rst line: All happy families are alike, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. And the Oblonskys, Dolly and Stiva, are unhappy because Stiva is screwing around. Like the other main characters in the book, like Tolstoy himself, the Oblonskys are aristocrats, with the trappings of the upper class rank, servants, a town house and a place in the country. But theyre in debt, and the country house is falling to pieces. Where Dolly, a kind, pious, modest, anxious gure, the mother of ve living and two dead children, belongs very much to the old Russia, Stiva Oblonsky, her husband, is recognisable as the caricature of a modern man. Stiva is

Review Saturday Guardian 01.09.12



Jude Law and Keira Knightley in the new lm as Karenin and Anna. Below: Aaron Johnson as Vronsky

an old Russian short form of the name Stepan, but I cant help thinking of him as a tanned guy called Steve in a pink open-necked shirt. Beloved by everyone for his charm, his healthy glow and his radiant smile, hes generous, gregarious, greedy, hedonistic, trivial, shallow, fond of gadgets and sex with non-threatening women, infantalised by fashion and marketing. He serves six dierent kinds of avoured vodka at his parties. He reads a liberal paper not because hes a liberal but because it suits his lifestyle. He uses his connections to get a cushy, well-paid government job and is selling o his wifes properties cheaply, yet still struggles to aord the life he thinks he deserves. However much [Stiva] tried to be a caring father and husband, the narrator tells us, he could never remember that he had a wife and children. The clashes between the moralistic Levin and his friend Oblonsky, some-

times aectionate, sometimes angry, and Levins linkage of modernity to Oblonskys attitudes that social mores are to be worked around and subordinated to pleasure, that families are base camps for o-base nooky undermine one possible reading of Anna Karenina, in which Anna is a martyr in the struggle for the modern sexual freedoms that we take for granted, taken down by the hypocritical conservative elite to which she, her lover and her husband belong. That elite does exert a growing inuence as the book unfolds, and it is true that the moralistic side of the establishment prevents Karenin showing Anna mercy. A case could be made that the unhappy family of the opening is the Russian aristocracy in the 1870s, trying to hold the line against excessive change after the grant of freedom to millions of human beings

it had owned as slaves, the peasant serfs, in 1861. The principal characters in Anna Karenina are literally part of one big formerly slave-owning family. Levin marries Kitty, whos the sister of Dolly, whos the wife of Stiva, whos the brother of Anna, whos married to Karenin. Even Anna and Vronsky are distantly related; their cousins are married to each other.

he tragic consequences of the pursuit of love for loves sake, in deance of the rules laid down by ones peers and ones family, is an eternal story, and that story is in Anna Karenina, but that story is not, by itself, the book Tolstoy wrote. Anna Karenina is no Romeo and Juliet story of star-crossed teenagers unjustly de-

stroyed by their elders cruel laws, but a story of adults vexed by boundaries. It is the portrayal of a clash between an old world of rigid religious codes, duels, xed gender roles and strict class division and a new world of divorce, separation, custody battles, womens self-determination and uncertain moral rules. Its not that Tolstoy sympathises with high societys mixture of moral outrage and gladiatorial blood lust over Anna and Vronskys aair. While its true he allows Anna not a moment of sexual pleasure, he had censors to contend with, and makes it clear how unsuitable a partner for Anna her husband is. As the book goes on, in step with Tolstoys increasing religiosity and his disenchantment with the project, he does put an increasing and sometimes oppressive emphasis on womens role as mothers. But none of this means he ever loses compassion

for or patience with the painful, intricate detail of Annas dilemmas. Annas love for Vronsky is a nobler aair than the infantile sexual consumerism embodied in Stiva Oblonsky, the emblem of modernity. Yet for Tolstoy the line between sexual freedom and sexual greed is not a clear one. He looks ahead to the era we live in now, where the dragon of sexual repression has been slain and sexual freedom prevails, and where, better as life is, we havent rid ourselves of the reasons Anna throws herself under a train. A woman may still marry a man she doesnt love, still feel shame and guilt for having an aair with someone else, still hate him for forgiving her, still (more rarely, certainly) lose custody of her son, still nd that people she thought were her friends side with the husband, and still nd that the man for whom she left the husband, the man she loves sincerely and passionately, doesnt understand her at all. Im not sure Tolstoy ever worked out how he actually felt about love and desire, or how he should feel about it. He was torn between compassion and moral rigour, between lust and self-denial, between loving his wife and being bored by her. His uncertainty is reected in the dual portrayal of his wife in Anna Karenina as the virtuous, somewhat frumpy Dolly, worn out by childbearing, like the woman his wife was when he was writing the book, and as the feisty, pretty teenager Kitty, like the woman his wife was when he married her. They must have seemed to contradict each other, yet each was true to her time; and Tolstoy, for all that he was a master of time, was only a slave to truth.
James Meeks novel The Heart Broke In is published by Canongate on 30 August. Joe Wrights lm of Anna Karenina opens in the UK on 7 September.


Nicholas Lezard on William Letfords Bevel page 16

The Saturday poem

by Roger McGough

To Maccas Shirt
(On exhibition at the Museum of Liverpool, alongside Maccas trousers) You arrived washed, ironed and lightly starched. Stars and stripes on the label, Broadway and Sunset Strip Assumed hed brought you back from his rst American trip. But you werent my style. Too ash for a teacher I left you in the laundry bag and squirrelled you away. Forty years on I re-read the label: Esquire regd. Glasgow. May 1960, the Silver Beatles on tour with Johnny Gentle. Two weeks in Scotland, bread on the night, and the lure of the Sanforized shrunk imports in the Esquire shop. Though never quite living up to the promise of your name, at least you appeared on stage and realized your dreams. Felt a sense of history coursing through your seams. The alternative? Shoplifted by a teddy boy from Alloa for the dance at the Town Hall. Lipstick on your collar, sweat on your oxters and blood on your cus. To end up here, the carapace of a silver beetle, pinned down under glass, would have been unthinkable. A shroud, ghostly, Sanforized and unshrinkable.

From As Far As I Know, published by Viking (12.99). To order a copy for 10.39 with free UK p&p call Guardian book service on 0330 333 6846 or go to

16 Review Saturday Guardian 01.09.12 PAPERBACKS NICHOLAS LEZARDS CHOICE Poetry from the rooftops
When I got to one of the poems here, I went into a reverie about a primaryschool teacher, with misguided keenness, trying to get her pupils interested in poetry, and asking them to write a poem about a farmyard animal of their choice. It need not rhyme or scan. She collects the work, and starts to read out little Billy Letfords poem, about a donkey, because its opening What am i looking for? Why am i here? looks promising. But she has made the mistake of not reading it all the way through, and quickly gets to the bit about the woman smelling the shit, possibly her own / that shes thrown over the garden. Oh dear, thats not very nice. And when the donkey says am bored oot ma nut ... Well, isnt that a little negative? Not, of course, that Letford is any longer in primary school. But normally, when poets try to get inside the heads of animals, there is usually less humour in evidence. Though profound boredom is not an unserious matter. And I, for one, will nd it hard to look at a donkey the one in the poem is, internal evidence suggests, in a hot, southern European climate, despite the accent without thinking to myself of the profundity of its tedium. Unusually, Letford has a proper job: a manual one, as a roofer. This is going to crop up in every mention of this mans poems for the next 50 years, so theres no trying to get away from it or pretend its not the case (similarly, Magnus Mills, who also worked as a bus driver, will be burdened doubtless beyond the grave by this astounding fact on his CV). Many of the poems here are about work; the blurb does not shirk from mentioning it; and the very title of this, his rst collection, refers to the corner or edge thats shaved o a piece of material either to make it look nicer, or less corner-y, or help it t with something else. So it is as if poetry makes things less painful to bang into, or helps life mesh with itself. After all, work on its own is hard: For thousands of years the great civilisations / considered manual and mundane labour / a punishment. / Then they abolished slavery / and be-

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gan the slow process of brainwashing the minions. (A bad day. I like the way you half-hear millions in the last word.) So Letfords poetry, while it has the look of early experimental modernism that William Carlos Williams/ee cummings thing has the cadences and accents of ordinary, reported speech, but grants to both voice and ear moments of transcendental insight. His workmate Casey might, with his aw right, express deep scepticism about the value of poetry, but he is also, elsewhere, Zeus, framed against the sky, bloated and happy / carrying cement across a tiled roof. Ive gone on about Letford before, at disproportionate length considering how many other contributors there were, when I reviewed an anthology of new poems, and poets published by Carcanet; so its a pleasure to see this collection come out. I had been waiting for it. That said, I must confess to a mild disappointment which it would only be fair to pass on to you: this is a slim volume, and per-

Bevel by William Letford (Carcanet, 9.95)

haps over-slim. Those who measure a books price against the number of words it contains there are such people are going to be bewildered by the audacity of charging a tenner for 53 pages of verse, many of which are mostly blank space, and a few of which have only a very few words on them at all (it rains / it rains / it rains). But this is a matter of poetry as something like sculpture: having to carve a space for itself in the world, and also chipping away at extraneous matter. The poems have the feeling of work that has been pared down from something much larger, until they resemble netsuke. Theres an indebtedness to Edwin Morgan not a bad poet to be indebted to; it means Letford works on the page as well as on the ear. You can, though, if you search the Guardians website, nd him reading his work and so hear for yourself what the fuss is about.
To order Bevel for 7.96 with free UK p&p call Guardian book service on 0330 333 6846 or go to

The Quality of Mercy by Barry Unsworth (Windmill, 7.99) Sarah Thornhill by Kate Grenville (Canongate, 7.99) Ed King by David Guterson (Bloomsbury,8.99)

Some of these reviews are taken from the original hardback review

Bird Brain by Guy Kennaway (Vintage, 7.99)

The Underwater Welder by Jeff Lemire (Top Shelf, 14.99)

The Quality of Mercy takes up where the late Barry Unsworths 1992 Booker winner, Sacred Hunger, left o, in the spring of 1767, two years after the mutinous crew of the Liverpool Merchant were tracked down. Now the survivors are in Newgate prison awaiting trial for piracy. Sacred Hunger, which played out under the wide, warm skies of West Africa and Florida, was a book built on dreams: of prot, of justice and of freedom for the slaves. In The Quality of Mercy the brave, terrifying, hopeless events of the previous book are reduced to a bland courtroom reckoning. This risks making the novel sound like a piece of dry procedural. Far from it. The novels conclusion, which ought on the surface to oer hope and a chance of betterment and freedom for some of its more deserving characters, is so deftly delivered as to leave us in no doubt that, in capitalisms perfectly calibrated machine, the elevation of any one individual will result only in the oppression and exploitation of others. Its a tting nal chapter in a superbly bleak novel. Sarah Crown

Sarah Thornhill was the last child born to William and Sal Thornhill, the couple whose struggle for a new beginning was memorably imagined in Grenvilles 2005 bestseller The Secret River. In this sequel Grenville has drawn once again on her ancestors stories, working from the detail of a banished granddaughter in her own family history to link back to, and build on, The Secret Rivers landscape of resilience and atrocity. When Sarah falls for the wildly inappropriate Jack Langland, a neighbour who is half darkie, the product of a union between his father and an Aborigine woman in the rst years of colonisation, her parents reveal to Jack a shameful secret which has been hinted at throughout the narrative, and which will be known to readers of The Secret River, but to which Sarah is somehow oblivious. The dicult journeys on which Sarah then nds herself for the remainder of the novel are propelled by the fact of that secret, by the damage it has done and, eventually, by her need to discover it and to attempt a kind of atonement. Belinda McKeon

The self-loving hero of Gutersons latest novel is a very rich and lucky man, an entrepreneur who reigns over an internet kingdom called Pythia. This is a search engine that can, sometimes, transform lives, even the life of the king at the centre of this sharply written but awed novel that has been loosely based (though not loosely enough) on Oedipus Rex. Its hard to imagine Oedipus Rex as a likely framework for a satire on American values in the 21st century, and Guterson himself seems wary of his project. Okay. Now we approach the part of the story a reader couldnt be blamed for having skipped forward to ... the part where a mother has sex with her son. (It may come as no suprise to hear that the novel won the Bad Sex award.) I hate to spoil the plot, but thats hardly the point. Brush up your Sophocles if you dont know the story. Its not dicult to guess in the nal pages exactly where the ight of Ed King, in his self-piloted chopper or his magnicent Gulfstream, will take him. Things arent going to end prettily. Jay Parini

Tom Sharpe meets Watership Down in the hugely enjoyable story of Basil Banger Peyton-Crumbe, a man who, having exulted in the slaughter of gamebirds all his life and neglected his wife and child, is killed in a shooting accident and reincarnated as a pheasant. Here all animals can communicate with each other but not with humans. Dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, insects: all trade insults, pass on news or plead for their lives; faithful pets feel acute frustration at being unable to get through to their slow-witted owners. In his new body, once-murderous Banger uses his old hunting knowhow to try to minimise the slaughter of his avian brethren, while the local plods dog makes a better st of solving the case of Bangers death than his master. It would not be quite accurate to say the book anthropomorphises animals because they all retain, quite brilliantly, their animal natures, but at the same time Banger, even as a dim bird, begins to gain insights into his shortcomings as a human being. Funny, astute and completely absorbing. Jane Housham

Given the dangers of drowning, the bends and electric shock, underwater welding seems an improbable comfort zone. But for 33-year-old Jack Joseph, it represents an escape: down in the murky waters of the rigs of the North Atlantic, he thinks he can zero in on weld itself, let everything else fade into the background. The everything else in this beautifully drawn graphic novel is a past tragedy that is poisoning Jacks future. Some 20 years ago, his treasure-hunting, alcoholic father disappeared; now, haunted by strange voices that pull him back into the sea, Jack struggles to focus on his heavily pregnant wife. Lemires work often has a dark, meditative quality, and his line drawings in this nimble mix of ghost story and psychological study are wonderfully atmospheric. Panels follow great ocks of gulls through vast skies, portray Jack as a curious, toolwielding alien, hunched in the still of the sea, and home in on the dead-end Nova Scotian town of Tiggs Bay, where dilapidated buildings and narrow piers reach into strange, deep water. James Smart

CHILDRENS FICTION Simon Mason enjoys a shy tale

The Boy Who Swam with Piranhas
by David Almond 246pp, Walker Books, 9.99 David Almond has always had his eye on the marginal, the defeated, the odd, the o-key. Finding mystery in the boring, magic in the down-to earth, he has the startling knack of conjuring the uncanny out of the stu that everyone else passes by without a second glance. His new novel for younger readers is both typical and dierent: the story of a lonely boy who runs away, and a knockabout comedy written in a cheerubfully throwaway style, short on subtlety but big on laughs and fun. It is all, quite literally, a shy business. When the shipyards close, Stanley Pottss Uncle Ernie turns his house into a shcanning factory (Pottss Spectacular Sardines, Pottss Perfect Potted Pilchards) and Stan d of becomes his drudge. A brief period o rcihomemade-machine mania is mercin fully brought to an end when Stan

visits a travelling fair and wins 13 goldsh. He is entranced (a fact formally conrmed by the fairs Gypsy Rose) by their panting mouths and their delicate scales and their tender dark eyes. And when Uncle Ernies madness takes a turn for the worse and attracts the attention of DAFT (Departmint for the Abolishun of Fishy Things), Stan has a circus to run away with, where he begins a promising career on the Hook-A-Duck stall. What he doesnt anticipate is something altogether grander and madder. Not just a career, but his destiny! Apprenticeship to the celebrated Pancho Pirelli the man who swims with piranhas. Almond has produced a circus ride of a story, with thrills and spills and all the fun of the fair. There are glittery prizes to be had, and big fat morals printed in coloured letters (the little troubled runts are often the ones that turn out to be best of all), as well as quiet moments in the silvery moonlight. Generally the pace is hectic (quadruple verb-clusters a speciality) and the action bold. Theres no lingering over rene-

S Simon Masons Moon Pie is published by David Fickling. To order The Boy Who Swam Dav with Piranhas for 7.99 with free UK p&p call wit P th Guardian book service on 0330 333 6846 or go to Guardian b guardian


ments such as motives or ramications and the storytelling voice is bighearted with a decided preference for cheap and cheerful clichs. The characters are cartoonish (such as Gypsy Rose, the dastardly villain Clarence P Clapp of DAFT, or the policeman whose talk is full of I know lads like you and Go on, get going). They talk funny, and show a marked tendency to farce: the thugs of DAFT are much more Keystone Kops than Child Catcher. Like the fairground setting or the runaway-with-the-circus storyline, theyre kitsch, completely unpretentious and fun to play with. The end of the story is cheerfully strewn with loose ends and the invitation to nish it (and some of the characters) o yourself. Is it a success? For me, its freewheeling style disguises some diculties. The opening sh-canning factory section, which seems a perfect t with the swimming-with-piranhas ending, has a demented tone and pitch that is out of kilter with the rest of the book. The incompetent DAFT bunch seem unable to locate their proper role. The story has magic but lacks danger or fear B fear. But the authors generosity of sav spirit saves it. Theres no mistaking the hallm mar hallmark Almond tenderness and the wil llin willingness to work with the comm mo mon things of life, which animate it from start to nish and make it good.

Blade Runner by Scott Bukatman (BFI/ Palgrave, 10.99) Taxi Driver by Amy Taubin (BFI/Palgrave, 10.99)

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the excellent BFI Film Classics series, 12 of them have been reissued with striking new cover designs and forewords. Bukatmans brilliantly succinct yet wide-ranging analysis of Blade Runner was published in 1997 and its reissue is timely: this year marks the 30th anniversary of Ridley Scotts immensely inuential SF lm based on a Philip K Dick novel. He explores the role of vision (seeing is everything in Blade Runner, but it guarantees absolutely nothing), the sci- metropolis (this is the quintessential city lm), the movies inuence on cyberpunk, and the way simulations are used to subvert reality, from synthetic animals and faked photos to uncannily human replicants (the word was apparently coined by the microbiologist daughter of one of the scriptwriters). In his foreword, Bukatman regrets the way subsequent versions of the lm (1992, 2007) have reduced the ambiguity as to whether Rick Deckard (or is it Ren Descartes?) is a human or a replicant: the state of radical doubt is central. PD Smith

In her new foreword to the reissue of this insightful introduction to Scorseses Taxi Driver, Taubin notes that New York has changed a great deal in the 36 years since the movie was made. America too has changed. Taubin sees racism and misogyny as more mainstream than before: Obamas presidency has inamed the racism that is entrenched in the American psyche. Indeed, her main criticism of the lm is that Scorsese and screenwriter Paul Schrader decided to pull their punches when it came to foregrounding Bickles racism. In the script (which Schrader wrote in 10 days), the three white scumbags Bickle shoots are black. We would have had ghts in the theatre, says Schrader, explaining why this was changed. Downplaying Bickles racism makes him more worthy of identication, notes Taubin. The massacre at the end in which Bickle attempts to reinvent himself as a macho vigilante hero is both horric and as voluptuous as anything in American movies. Bickle becomes the nightmare America deserves. PDS

Review Saturday Guardian 01.09.12 THE WEEKLY CHARTS

This Last Title Week Week Author Publisher RRP Sales

17 THE BACK PAGE Online reading and book-buying is a far from private matter. By Jo Glanville
very time you read a newspaper on your computer or buy an ebook, you can leave an electronic trail behind you. That trail is potentially lucrative for business, and is a new source of surveillance for government and law enforcement. Retailers and search engines, most notably Amazon and Google, can now gather an astonishingly detailed portrait of our book-reading habits: what we buy, what we browse, the amount of time we spend on a page and even the annotations we make in an ebook. As campaigners have quipped, its the equivalent of a bookshop hiring someone to follow you round the shop noting every book you pick up, then sitting at home with you while you read what you bought. Defending the freedom to read is no longer only about battling against direct censorship in obscenity, blasphemy or libel cases. Since the digital revolution, its now increasingly about protecting the freedom of the reader as much as the reading matter. Last year, the state of California passed a law safeguarding the privacy of readers: for the rst time, the vulnerability of readers in the digital age would be recognised in statute. The Reader Privacy Act means that government agencies will have to obtain a court order before they are able to access data on customers from bookstores or online booksellers. Civil liberties and digital rights groups are hopeful that other states will adopt the legislation. The EU has also passed a law that will make it less easy for websites to track our online activities without our consent. In an age when our lives are lived out in public more than ever before, the loss of privacy might be a price some are happy to pay to be part of the digital future. But it fundamentally erodes the privacy that is necessary to enjoy our freedoms above all, freedoms of thought and expression. Why should companies let alone governments know what we are reading? Government interest in our literary taste always increases when national security is at stake. In a notorious case in 2008, a student at Nottingham University was detained for seven days by the police after downloading the al-Qaida training manual from a US government website for his PhD on counterterrorism. US civil liberties groups are in the vanguard of protecting readers rights. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which lobbied for the Reader Privacy Act along with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), has published a detailed guide on how to protect your privacy as a reader of digital books. The EFF criticises e-reader manufacturers for not giving customers clear information on the data that is being held on them and for what purpose. Right now, theres no way for you to tell Amazon, I want to buy your books, but I dont want you to track what Im reading, Cindy Cohn, the EFFs legal director, has said. The ACLU has criticised both Google and Amazon for their patchy protections for reader privacy. Google reserves the right to disclose information when it has a good-faith belief that it is reasonably necessary to meet any applicable law, regulation, legal process or enforceable governmental request. Amazon also reserves the right to disclose information when it believes release is appropriate to comply with the law. A stronger protection for our privacy should require a warrant before personal data is released. That said, Amazon has proven itself a robust defender of customer privacy, by challenging government demands for the data it keeps. In 2006, federal prosecutors subpoenaed the company for the purchase records of 24,000 customers as part of a grand jury probe in a tax-evasion case; in 2010, the North Carolina Department of Revenue requested the records of 50m customers a staggeringly broad request. In both cases, Amazon fought the demands and won, though the ruling emphasised the threat to e-commerce over that to freedom of expression. wareness of the problem is growing, from Googles catastrophic launch of its social network Buzz in 2010, which shared users contacts without their permission, to the revelation last year that Facebook was still tracking users browsing information after they had logged out. In February 2012, the Obama administration announced that it would be pushing for all browsers to include a do not track button as part of a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights. In May, a class-action complaint was led against Facebook for collecting data on the internet use of its members. In the UK, there is alarm at the governments draft communications data bill, which will give the home secretary the power to force a wider range of service providers to store data for up to a year. Police would be able to request this data without a warrant for permitted purposes, ranging from the detection of crime to public safety. CS Lewis observed We read to know that we are not alone, but at times that is exactly what we expect to be. The new possibilities for surveillance undermine the fundamental privacy of the act of reading. If readers, campaigners and civil liberties groups combined to assert the reading rights of us all, then that would be a force for change.
Jo Glanville becomes director of English PEN on 3 September. The rst edition of its new magazine is published this month.

Paperback ction
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 10 NE 8 Fifty Shades Freed Fifty Shades Darker Fifty Shades of Grey Bared to You: A Crossre Novel Aair, The: Jack Reacher Eighty Days Yellow Destined to Play Bride Stripped Bare, The Sacrilege Litigators, The James, EL James, EL James, EL Day, Sylvia Child, Lee Jackson, Vina Bloome, Indigo Gemmell, Nikki Parris, SJ Grisham, John Arrow Arrow Arrow Penguin Bantam Orion Harper 4th Estate Harper Hodder 7.99 89,748 7.99 88,662 7.99 87,034 7.99 48,179 7.99 36,521 7.99 14,693 5.99 14,456 7.99 11,549 7.99 10,917 7.99 10,707

Hardback ction
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 NE 1 2 4 3 5 7 6 9 NE Sweet Tooth Kingmakers Daughter, The Watching the Dark Last to Die Bones are Forever Spartacus: Rebellion Bring Up the Bodies Daylight Gate, The Long Earth, The Tobys Room McEwan, Ian Gregory, Philippa Robinson, Peter Gerritsen, Tess Reichs, Kathy Kane, Ben Mantel, Hilary Winterson, Jeanette Pratchett, T & Baxter, S Barker, Pat J Cape S&S H&S Bantam 18.99 8,745 18.99 7,109 18.99 4,167 18.99 3,863

W Heinemann 18.99 3,649 Preface 4th Estate Hammer Doubleday 12.99 2,013 20 1,942

9.99 1,653 18.99 1,456

H Hamilton 16.99 1,382

Paperback non-ction
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 1 2 NE 5 3 4 NE 6 NE RE Hairy Dieters, The Thinking, Fast and Slow I Am the Secret Footballer Mud, Sweat and Tears May I Have Your Attention Please? In Pursuit of Glory Twisting My Melon Eden Project: The Guide Please, Miss Dukan Diet,The Robinson, Bernadette Dukan, Pierre Grylls, Bear Corden, James Wiggins, Bradley Ryder, Shaun Kahneman, Daniel W&N Penguin Guardian Channel 4 Arrow Orion Corgi Eden Hodder Hodder 14.99 33,060 8.99 5,811 12.99 3,798 7.99 2,684 7.99 2,597 8.99 2,547 7.99 2,295 6.00 2,295 6.99 2,076 8.99 1,967

Hardback non-ction
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 1 3 2 6 4 5 9 8 RE 10 Fast, Fresh & Easy Food Great British Bake O My Story How to Bake Gok Cooks Chinese Dear Lupin ... Jamies 30-Minute Meals Living Life the Essex Way Dukan Diet Life Plan River Cottage Veg Every Day! Pascale, Lorraine Collister, Linda Daley, Tom Hollywood, Paul Wan, Gok HarperCollins 20 BBC M Joseph 20 16,123 6,548 16.99 4,410 3,597 2,108

Bloomsbury 20 M Joseph 20

Mortimer, R & Mortimer, C Constable Oliver, Jamie Faiers, Sam Dukan, Pierre Fearnley-Whittingstall, H M Joseph S&S H&S

12.99 1,310 26 1,209

12.99 1,195 18.99 1,132 1,130

Why should companies let alone governments know what we are reading?

Bloomsbury 25

Data supplied by Nielsen BookScan Nielsen BookScan 2012 (01483 712222 or

On the website this week


The top 10 bestsellers through the Guardian Bookshop this week

DOONESBURY by Garry Trudeau

Full coverage of the Guardian First Book award, with Review editor Lisa Allardice discussing the longlist on this weeks podcast James Smythe continues his tour through Stephen Kings back catalogue with The Long Walk Patrick Keiller (above) shares his top 10 books with pictures Sam Jordison reviews the second title on the Not the Booker shortlist

I Am the Secret Footballer Anonymous RRP 12.99 Our price 7.99 The Structure of Scientic Revolutions Thomas S. Kuhn RRP 8.50 Our Price 8.50 The Last of the Vostyachs Diego Marani RRP 9.99 Our price: 7.99

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9


1 7 9 10 2 3 4 5 6 8

1 Word from a prestidigitator! (11) 9 Examinations of a body to determine cause of death (9) 10 Sound from a ewe (3) 11 Alternative (5) 13 Young nonconformist of the 1950s and 1960s (7) 14 Young kid 15 Final settlement backhander (3-3) 18 Conic section (7) 20 Hindu god of rain and thunder drain (anag) (5) 21 Munch (3) 22 With a slightly turned-up hooter (4-5) 24 Drug that causes temporary loss of feeling (11)

Sweet Tooth Ian McEwan RRP 18.99 Our Price 12.99 A History of the World in Twelve Maps Jerry Brotton RRP 30 Our Price 19




Pathways and The Old Ways Davis Stewart and Nicholas Rudd-Jones/ Robert Mcfarlane RRP 40 Our Price 22 The Daylight Gate Jeanette Winterson RRP 9.99 Our Price 7.99

14 17 18 19



6 Chief of the Merry Men (5,4) 7 Apparatus for measuring heat capacities in a process relocate rim (anag) (11) 8 Deck (4,2,5) 12 Pompous (9) 16 Girls name in an ear (anag) (7) 17 Member of the order founded by St Ignatius Loyola and St Francis Xavier (6) 19 Old hat (5) 23 Snow runner (3)


NW Zadie Smith RRP 18.99 Our Price 12.99

21 22 23

Solution no 13,202

The Tour de France ... to the Bitter End Richard Nelsson RRP 9.99 Our price 6.99


Parades End Ford Madox Ford RRP 8.99 Our price 6.99

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Writing that breaks the

Join Will Self in a series of events with writers who take inspiration from Modernism. Also this autumn, hear from great world leaders plus activists and thinkers from the frontlines of the Arab Revolutions.

Thursday 13 September

Tuesday 2 October

Thursday 25 October

Will Self
Modernism Tuesday 11 September

Mary Robinson
Saturday 15 September

D.T. Max & David Baddiel: A Life of David Foster Wallace

Modernism Sunday 7 October

Sharon Olds
Monday 29 October

Jacqueline Rose
Modernism Thursday 1 November

The Arab Revolutions; What You Need to Know Ko Annan

Saturday 29 September Monday 15 October

Orhan Pamuk
Monday 5 November

Gabriel Josipovici
Modernism Saturday 29 September

2012 Man Booker Prize Readings

Tuesday 16 October

John Gray
Modernism Saturday 24 November

Jonathan Coe, Julia Jordan & Philip Tew: The Story of B.S. Johnson

Martin Jacques: When China Rules the World

Thursday 18 October

Slavoj iek
Modernism Thursday 29 November

Richard Ford

Saul Williams Literary Mix Tape