Thursday, March 09, 2006

There is no particular reason

I should be linking to reviews of Ludmila's Broken English by DBC Pierre, but this TLS one is rather irresistible (the author is--oh, I am glad I do not have one of these names myself, much as I hate my own first name at least it doesn't have any obvious associations other than the general unfortunate 1970s-ness of it all--Peter Parker):

It is all too characteristic of Pierre's writing that nobody in the novel merely looks at a person: Blair 'hung a stare on his brother's hair', while Bunny in his turn 'hung a dull eye on his brother', then 'curled an eye over his back like Quasimodo'. A few pages on, 'one eye curled down like the feeler on a snail', then, later, Bunny 'wound his eyes up to Blair' and (yet again) 'hung his eyeballs on Blair'. When eyes are not being hung or curled, they are being tossed about ('he threw an eye to the elder', 'she tossed her eyes to a crowbar') or sliced ('he sliced his eyes into tiny leers', 'she sliced her eyes at Gregor').

(In the unlikely event that this inspires you to preorder the novel from US Amazon, here's the link for Ludmila's Broken English.)

Elsewhere on the Times website, Celia Brayfield soft-heartedly observes (from painful personal experience, evidently) that "it does reviewers no credit to join the kind of feeding frenzy that is churning bloody water around D. B. C. Pierre. A second novel is like February: one of God’s serious mistakes and something you just have to get through before life can move on." But I disagree with her. I like all different kinds of books, I read Vernon God Little with an open mind and found it direly awful, a novel of no integrity, shamefully crowd-pleasing (I suppose its most likeable feature is the author's show-off-y "look-at-me" air, if you like that kind of thing that is) and displaying a uniquely insensitive ear for American English. (It is second only to Martin Amis's Night Train in this; I really, really like Amis in general, at one point he was one of my favorites, but I read this book with my jaw hanging open in amazement that he had been allowed to publish it in that form--the first-person voice of the American woman cop is extraordinarily unpersuasively realized.) I think that it is inhumane to brutalize minor authors but that the really high-profile ones are fair game. I sympathize with the pain and the plight of the author, in other words, but occasionally I read a book that so outrages my sensibilities and my beliefs about what is or is not worth reading that I feel compelled to join the frenzy. In fact, it would almost be worth reading this one just so that I can righteously say why I think it's bad (hmmm, maybe not quite worth it, but if I come across a copy in an idle moment, it would be tempting).

(The Literary Saloon had a sensible post about all this some days ago that includes some other review links.)


  1. I'll second that opinion about Amis's Night Train. Not only is the narrator's voice unrealized, but the plot twists (I won't give too much away) seem to exist only to punish her. What kind of story was Amis writing--was it a send-up of the relationships between female detectives and victims in crime fiction, or just an unimaginative treatment of the issue?

  2. That's the real mystery. Seriously, I have no idea--there's clearly something vaguely postmodern and send-up-y going on, and yet he seemed on the whole to think it seriously approximated its straight-world noir equivalent. Puzzling.