At 10:35 on an early summer's morning, John Lanchester sat down at his study desk, switched on his new Dell computer, opened up the word processing programme that the computer had come with and began

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Because I didn't want to clutter up the What Are You Reading thread with the way this book perpetually perks its folly in my face.

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 11:18 (six years ago) Permalink

On a rainy morning in early December, an 82-year-old woman sat in her front room at 42 Pepys Road, looking out at the street through a lace curtain. Her name was Petunia Howe...

Don't be absurd! Also, reader wonders whether she is distantly or even closely related to Geoffrey.

The proprietor of 51 Pepys Road, the house across the road from Petunia Howe's, was at work in the City of London. Roger Yount sat at his office desk at his bank, Pinker Lloyd, doing sums.

I hope you're already getting a sense of fatigue at the toiling rhythm and progress of his sentences, the way he leaves nothing to chance.

It was late afternoon. Roger sat on one of the sofas in his office,

Stop telling me the time of day.

Ahmed Kamal, who owned the shop (sorry thomp) at the end of Pepys Road, number 68, came awake 3.59 in the morning, one minute before his alarm was set to go off.

Please stop telling me the time of day. Also - came awake?

Shahid Kamal, who was due to work a shift at the family shop between eight o'clock in the morning and six o'clock in the evening, walked down the street at a brisk clip.

ffs

At number 51 Pepys Road, Mrs Arabella Yount...

At ten o'clock Shahid was stacking...

Two weeks before Christmas, Petunia sat...

I've reached Part 2. Things are going to start happening!

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 11:19 (six years ago) Permalink

You can't buy this sort of publicity. Will read (this thread).

Ismael Klata, Friday, 9 March 2012 11:23 (six years ago) Permalink

Didn't bring the book with me today, of course.

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 11:29 (six years ago) Permalink

I was on the verge of ordering this yesterday, will hold off on that one then.

Homosexual Satan Wasp (Matt DC), Friday, 9 March 2012 11:47 (six years ago) Permalink

Can tell you the characters of course.

You just have to insert ffs or 'oh god' after each one:

Petunia Howe - an octogenarian lady who notices how young people like doctors are etc.

Roger and Arabella Yount - a wealthy banker and his wife who likes shopping and spas and says 'dahling'.

Quentina Mkfesi BSc MSc - a Zimbabwean refugee (escaping political death squads), who can't be deported, and who has a job as a traffic warden.

'Bogdan' Zbigniew (can't remember his surname) - a Polish builder who is saving up money to give to his father back in Poland. He saves this money up by playing the stock market (??).

Ahmed, Usman, and Shahid. Brothers who collectively run a corner shop. Shahid has dabbled in terrorism, and a shady terrorist friend from his past has just appeared on the scene. Goes to a militant mosque in Brixton. Can't remember what Usman does.

Freddy Kamo(!) - Young African footballer with lanky legs (Lanchester is an Arsenal fan right?) who plays for a thinly disguised Chelsea. Always smiling. Stern father.

Smitty - a 'concept' artist, who leaves anonymous graffiti around the place, and who Lanchester somehow manages to get talking in a faux faux-Cockney/Mockney.

All of these behave exactly as you'd imagine they'd behave if you a) had no imagination b) got all your information from Sunday Supplements/daytime tv? apart from 'surprising' gestures towards 'civilised' or nuanced (ie white male) thinking.

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 11:49 (six years ago) Permalink

read you talking about this in the reading thread and am glad this hilarious spin-off exists

Nultified Ancients of Man U (Noodle Vague), Friday, 9 March 2012 11:53 (six years ago) Permalink

Why isn't there a racist taxi driver? I demand a racist taxi driver.

Homosexual Satan Wasp (Matt DC), Friday, 9 March 2012 11:53 (six years ago) Permalink

further comments from here, Matt. Just couldn't be bothered to cnp them all in.

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 11:54 (six years ago) Permalink

Ah, with Lanchester the 'racist taxi driver' would in fact be a surprisingly tolerant racist taxi driver who has a copy of the Economist on the front shelf of his taximetered cabriolet.

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 11:55 (six years ago) Permalink

Q. Is the problem with "state of the nation" novels usually that they are written by people far removed from most of the nation?

Nultified Ancients of Man U (Noodle Vague), Friday, 9 March 2012 11:56 (six years ago) Permalink

Q. I though Lanchester's steez was a kind of sub-Banville aestheticism. Wtf was he thinking?

Nultified Ancients of Man U (Noodle Vague), Friday, 9 March 2012 11:57 (six years ago) Permalink

A little surprised there are no media types, unless that's Smitty's role of course. There should also be a harassed woman juggling kids with running some sort of poorly-funded third-sector body.

Ismael Klata, Friday, 9 March 2012 11:58 (six years ago) Permalink

Must have fancied it after everyone loved Whoops!, I guess. Once you're thinking 'I get bankers, I've talked to a lot of bankers', and you've written abt London property, it must be p much irresistible to write a 'city of do-you-see contrasts' novel.

woof, Friday, 9 March 2012 12:12 (six years ago) Permalink

Also - came awake?

It's when someone has a nocturnal emission so violent that it wakes them up.
The cover of this book annoys me the way the cover of 'Cloud Atlas' does.

a box on the wall that sends the wind to make FPs marginally less (snoball), Friday, 9 March 2012 12:16 (six years ago) Permalink

Is there any detailed exposition of what bankers actually do, other than having three computer screens? Ian McEwan, even if being tedious, would always have some of this to redeem it.

Ismael Klata, Friday, 9 March 2012 12:19 (six years ago) Permalink

xpost to NV.

thomp p much nailed The Debt to Pleasure on the what are you reading thread - 'debt to pleasure' = would maybe have like to have been nabokov when it grew up, narrator has poisoned some dudes, envies his brother's career as chef, is self-described gourmand, presents memoir of dudes he has poisoned as a series of menus. it's aight i guess.

Problems with this state of the nation novel, with a star by problems that I think are possibly generic pitfalls:

The characters attempt to be 'representative' and of course are pure ciphers and representative of nothing.*

Lanchester isn't very good, in fact is very very bad at filling his book with material.

The need to fill your book with situations that, again, are representative, makes it feel like satireless satire.*(unless its actual satire)

Capital is extraordinarily badly written on a sentence by toiling sentence basis, which makes me wonder whether he's even capable of doing the sub-Banville aestheticism, on any level.

Insights of daily life barely merit the name insight, apart from a couple of occasions where I said to myself 'yeah, I guess that's just about a thing'.

The interior monologues of the characters are utterly utterly dreadful, full of truly mundane material that should never be in a book. 'So and so looked at the Prius and its leather seats, he wished he could afford a Prius but in the meantime would continue to take the tubefghk;lsfb;hadfjghvflk;sxnhjnhj'

It is a book whose messages come as a clearly attached post-it at the beginning of each chapter. *(I guess - message novels have to stay on message, rather than let the imagination of the writer take them in places that are interesting or entertaining. You just feel like you're being shown things that you've read a thousand times before in longer-form journalism.)

What it reminds me of most is The Information by Martin Amis, which isn't an amazing book, but is world's classics status compared to Capital. Amis wouldn't call a bar 'Uprising' but he might do something similar, better, but similar. Likewise there are the shady figures, the underclasses, the outsider figures, presaging doom for the main power characters.

But MA was probably the best recent State of the Nation novelist? He was funny and he was a very good writer, which helped. Still easy to come a cropper, with the all CAPS text messaging in Yellow Dog for instance. And everything from The Information onwards has been increasingly flawed, and is probably a continuation of the things that made London Fields weaker than Money?

Any other candidates for good recent State of the Nation novelists? (Or any time - would George Eliot have counted? Probably?)]

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 12:21 (six years ago) Permalink

xp

His dad was some kind of banker iirc, & he does seem to have actual friends in the city, so you think it'd be his strong suit.

Feel like this is going to be a MAJOR NEW DRAMA on BBC1 at some point.

woof, Friday, 9 March 2012 12:22 (six years ago) Permalink

What a Carve Up? I remember it being good, but don't trust 90s me as a judge tbh. It also doesn't quite take the cross-section of society route iirc.

woof, Friday, 9 March 2012 12:24 (six years ago) Permalink

Amis also had a couple of Zbigniews in I think London Fields.

Ismael Klata, Friday, 9 March 2012 12:25 (six years ago) Permalink

McEwan's Saturday is clunky-as-hell but basically alright.

Ismael Klata, Friday, 9 March 2012 12:26 (six years ago) Permalink

Is there any detailed exposition of what bankers actually do, other than having three computer screens? Ian McEwan, even if being tedious, would always have some of this to redeem it.

― Ismael Klata, Friday, 9 March 2012 12:19 (2 minutes ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

There isn't, perhaps surprisingly. There's some rather awkward handwaving towards types of trading, and bankery things, to indicate he knows what he's talking about (which he does), but it's kept at a minimum, I suspect because Lanchester feared (prob rightly) that going too much into it would a)be disproportionate b)reveal that he knows rather less about the working detail of everyone else.

I think a fictional account of a banker by Lanchester, or a group of bankers, would have been far more interesting than this 'terrorist', 'immigrant', 'old lady', 'young artist' media stereotype bollocks.

Things where you can tell Lanchester feels more comfortable:

Talking about football (this isn't good, but it doesn't feel RONG).
Bringing up small children (this isn't funny, but " " " ")

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 12:26 (six years ago) Permalink

er 'of a banker or a group of bankers by Lanchester' not 'by Lanchester or group of bankers' obv.

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 12:27 (six years ago) Permalink

xp

aesthetic saturday objections aside, I think a state-of-the-nation has to be significantly longer than that, 400pp minimum.

woof, Friday, 9 March 2012 12:28 (six years ago) Permalink

Heh, I like the idea of a group of bankers writing as Luther Blisset.

Ismael Klata, Friday, 9 March 2012 12:29 (six years ago) Permalink

is Hensher's Northern Clemency in this vein? Anyone read that?

woof, Friday, 9 March 2012 12:32 (six years ago) Permalink

Wasn't Amis' new book originally going to be called The State Of England? A better title than Lionel Asbo, anyway.

I enjoyed Theo Tait putting the boot into Ali Smith's last, vaguely S-o-E book: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v34/n02/theo-tait/the-absolute-end - doesn't happen often enough, presumably because of the very small world of London publishing. Read the kindle sample of the Lanchester and couldn't believe how slack it was, yet I haven't read a bad, or even mixed, review yet.

Stevie T, Friday, 9 March 2012 12:51 (six years ago) Permalink

Have the feeling this is going to belong on this thread soon:

http://fivedials.com/images/672.jpg

Stevie T, Friday, 9 March 2012 12:58 (six years ago) Permalink

private eye gave captial a stinky review, fwiw

x-post

― Ward Fowler, Thursday, 8 March 2012 14:25 (Yesterday) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 13:05 (six years ago) Permalink

I am actually looking forward to Lionel Asbo.

woof, Friday, 9 March 2012 13:05 (six years ago) Permalink

xp

I also saw a mixed somewhere serious, but can't remember where.

woof, Friday, 9 March 2012 13:06 (six years ago) Permalink

How about a state-of-the-nation novel not set in London? Is there such a thing?

Ismael Klata, Friday, 9 March 2012 13:07 (six years ago) Permalink

oh, theo tait again, Guardian.

woof, Friday, 9 March 2012 13:07 (six years ago) Permalink

If the Northern Clemency is that sort of thing, it seems to be Sheffield-based. But I think most SoN-type novels would try to do London a bit maybe? At least have one character moving/working there?

woof, Friday, 9 March 2012 13:11 (six years ago) Permalink

Actually, I may be imagining it, but is there something of Adam Curtis's faux-humdrum tone to some of those opening sentences up top? Like how all his BBC blogs begin with sentences like "One September night in 1945 three British mathematicians and astronomers went to see a new film at a cinema in Cambridge". I can almost hear Curtis reading the one about Petunia Howe.

Stevie T, Friday, 9 March 2012 13:13 (six years ago) Permalink

i was a fan of What a Carve Up when i read it but when i've flicked through it since i thing i was mostly wrong, and the clumsiness i excused as Dickensian at the time just reads like clumsiness to me now.

interesting to think of Middlemarch as a state-of-the-nation novel because of course it's addressing "middle England" before the fact, at a time when it was far from central to English notions of England maybe?

Nultified Ancients of Man U (Noodle Vague), Friday, 9 March 2012 13:13 (six years ago) Permalink

iirc Lanchester has too many friends in the journalism trade to get many bad reviews?

Nultified Ancients of Man U (Noodle Vague), Friday, 9 March 2012 13:15 (six years ago) Permalink

Wasn't Amis' new book originally going to be called The State Of England? A better title than Lionel Asbo, anyway

Should have just gone the whole hog with 'I Hate The Fucking Proles'.

Homosexual Satan Wasp (Matt DC), Friday, 9 March 2012 13:38 (six years ago) Permalink

don't think he realises his dad was sometimes joking

Nultified Ancients of Man U (Noodle Vague), Friday, 9 March 2012 13:39 (six years ago) Permalink

I quite enjoyed that Ali Smith book as I was reading it but some of its sympathetic characters are more annoying than its unsympathetic characters and it descends into caricature rather a lot. Also it doesn't really go anywhere.

Homosexual Satan Wasp (Matt DC), Friday, 9 March 2012 13:40 (six years ago) Permalink

oh, theo tait again, Guardian.

― woof, Friday, 9 March 2012 13:07 (31 minutes ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

"Actually it was a good sandwich," runs a typical sentence

Good job the review has forewarned me of this particular sentence, otherwise I might have hurled the book across the room.

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 13:44 (six years ago) Permalink

That review is spot on about the 'drone' of the prose. Also:

And there's a lot of slightly lazy repetition: "Parker, the boy she had been going out with ever since they kissed at a sixth-form dance on a hot June night back at sixth-form college."

This! Who on earth let this sort of thing through? It's like the weird repetition of the business about the skips and builders in the first chapter and the 'Transport for London card charging device'.

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 13:54 (six years ago) Permalink

There was an interview I skimmed through that did say L's dad was banker. But so what? Isn't part of the 'story' how the system almost took on a life of its own and no one really has any control/understanding?

Part of the reason why I never got round to Whoops! anyway was that all of a sudden this novelist that is never on your radar acquires an interest over these topical matters - except that in this case, as I've said, my impression is that even the so-called experts are no experts when it comes to the financial system, so what chance does this guy have? The other reason is that unemployed/laid-off bankers started writing a mountain of these so cynicism set in.

Related but separate thing is you have other novelists I think I'd hate - Geoff Dyer and Adam Mars-Jones writing bks on things I really like: on Stalker and Late Spring, whereas I would like to see these being written by film writers that would bring wider knowledge on Japanese and Russian cinema instead of what I think it would be (= too many boring personal reflections...its for the fans you know). Its depressing that this might be the only way for bks to get published on really interesting films/topics and this seems like the only way to get any shelf-space/coverage.

I guess they've done their 'research', ffs.

xyzzzz__, Friday, 9 March 2012 14:01 (six years ago) Permalink

'the system' took control -- this is SF material of course, fuck 'station of the nation' bullshit.

xyzzzz__, Friday, 9 March 2012 14:04 (six years ago) Permalink

otm.

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 14:05 (six years ago) Permalink

iirc Lanchester has too many friends in the journalism trade to get many bad reviews?

yes, I get the impression he's well-liked; also bad reviews aren't really done that much anymore (there was some fuss about this recently, maybe centred around that hatchet-job award?). The notable thing is how much attention it's getting - I got the impression that Lanchester was slipping into the terminal midlist zone before this, releasing also-reviewed, diminishing-returns novels every few years. Now he's a hit! I guess that's partly Whoops!, partly a canny topic, partly a very quiet literary spring in the uk, partly book-page need to have some literary middle-aged men to take seriously.

woof, Friday, 9 March 2012 14:18 (six years ago) Permalink

Actually, I may be imagining it, but is there something of Adam Curtis's faux-humdrum tone to some of those opening sentences up top? Like how all his BBC blogs begin with sentences like "One September night in 1945 three British mathematicians and astronomers went to see a new film at a cinema in Cambridge". I can almost hear Curtis reading the one about Petunia Howe.

― Stevie T, Friday, 9 March 2012 13:13 (56 minutes ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

there is a little bit. But I think the thing that annoys me about these specific sentences is the way he smuggles in other information. The 'brisk clip', and another one where after the usual time and season bollocks, Lanchester puts in a 'slightly out of breath'. I wouldn't mind so much if it was as formulaic as Adam Curtis' 'I'm going to tell you the story of x. It's a remarkable story that involves x,y,z,π and ك'.'

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 14:23 (six years ago) Permalink

Idk, should this be changed into a 'State of the Nation' novel thread? Change title one of these maybe?

'Actually it was a good sandwich' - State of the Nation novels and what is in them

'fuck 'station of the nation' bullshit'

'I am actually looking forward to Lionel Asbo'

'Why isn't there a racist taxi driver? I demand a racist taxi driver'

'I also saw a mixed somewhere serious'

'i'm assuming the copies i saw in waterstones were some britain-wide conspiracy'

'wonky textspeak'

' I guess it looks like what broadsheet journalism likes to believe novels are'

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 14:44 (six years ago) Permalink

ah, 'I also saw a mixed review somewhere serious'.

Fizzles, Friday, 9 March 2012 14:44 (six years ago) Permalink

I dunno, enjoying the title as it stands, above all "that the computer had come with"

woof, Friday, 9 March 2012 14:53 (six years ago) Permalink

Ihe shorts and especially the "low bed, the kind that older people find it hard to straighten up from" add just a bit of friction to the read as you have to pause each time and realize that no, this isn't a clever touch that adds something to the description, it's just a touch.

mick signals, Wednesday, 1 August 2018 23:43 (one month ago) Permalink

As Fizzles has said - the work doesn't seem drafted or rewritten. It's all like a first draft - maybe delivered verbally to a computer (something Lanchester once wrote about in the LRB, ie: talking to a computer to get things done).

Yesterday I saw a Lanchester article in the New Yorker where he talked about the difference between, I think, economic and literary outlooks, as though he has a literary outlook, an aesthetically thoughtful mind.

the pinefox, Thursday, 2 August 2018 07:41 (one month ago) Permalink

yes, i’ve noticed his manner on that sort of thing before and i’m amused at the harmless self delusion usually - a sort of lit dunning-kruger. then i remember that this is usually a prestigious literary journal or media publication and i end up stomping round loudly asking myself HOW. accepting self delusion is always possibly, HOW does everyone else nod and smile and say lanchester the great man of letters of our age?

Fizzles, Thursday, 2 August 2018 07:51 (one month ago) Permalink

the work doesn't seem drafted or rewritten. It's all like a first draft

But that's part of the issue, isn't it? That it doesn't feel like a draft at all - no one thinks or writes like that. It feels like a studied intervention; like he's reaching for some new style to detail our times. Which just makes it shitter.

The shard-borne beetle with his drowsy hums (Chinaski), Thursday, 2 August 2018 07:53 (one month ago) Permalink

But that's part of the issue, isn't it? That it doesn't feel like a draft at all - no one thinks or writes like that. It feels like a studied intervention; like he's reaching for some new style to detail our times. Which just makes it shitter.


i take your point Chinaski tho i think it does feel first draft like:

Her mouth tasted fresh. She couldn’t smell her own breath, nobody can, but she could tell that if she were able to, it would smell sweet. The bathroom was en suite.

to pick this apart a bit. he knows there’s something odd about “her mouth tasted fresh”, you’d have to be an alien from a differently cognitively organised species not to. for me, it’s that no one not on acid has ever said “my mouth tastes fresh”, so it looks like lanchester is observing this of her externally as it were, hence the perviness, the stylistic cause of which is his persistent inability with free indirect speech. anyway, as i say, he knows something’s a bit off there.

so then he attempts to sort it out - well ok i know it’s wrong - “no one can taste their own breath” - (except in fact they can if it’s foul) BUT if she were able to it would taste sweet.

then i think he says “this is my style, i observe the simple operations of people’s minds”. so he tries to solve a stylistic failing logically, which then claims is psychological insight.

i don’t think he can have meant to write that little laboured logic hence not noticing sweet/en suite. i suppose it’s even possible that a subeditor got back to him and said listen here john this doesn’t make any sense and instead of rewriting (because by that logic he would have to rewrite everything) he just inserts some justification or explanation.

Fizzles, Thursday, 2 August 2018 08:28 (one month ago) Permalink

so it’s a mixture of pinefox and chinaski. it’s first draft as style or manner.

Fizzles, Thursday, 2 August 2018 08:29 (one month ago) Permalink

I think sweet / suite must be deliberate, or at least connected -- cannot see how he would throw in the 'en suite' detail otherwise.

But the connection between them is basically non-existent so it doesn't work.

the pinefox, Thursday, 2 August 2018 08:38 (one month ago) Permalink

I think sweet / suite must be deliberate, or at least connected -- cannot see how he would throw in the 'en suite' detail otherwise.

But the connection between them is basically non-existent so it doesn't work.


i think i know why you say that - how could it not be - but i don’t think it can be. that would almost be admirable. but it’s only arbitrarily repeated. (there’s a single example in capital). your last sentence effortlessly sums up lanchester.

Fizzles, Thursday, 2 August 2018 20:25 (one month ago) Permalink

Your last sentence effortlessly sums up Lanchester. It was written from Manchester.

Matt DC, Thursday, 2 August 2018 20:29 (one month ago) Permalink

looool.

Fizzles, Thursday, 2 August 2018 20:43 (one month ago) Permalink

btw NV otm about colly cibber or maybe colly wdve publishes him. and less luridly a buffoon. lanchester is not a buffoon. i wish he was. and it’s not really mcgonagall-ish either. it’s just so. fucking. mediocre. and bad. mesmeric.

Fizzles, Thursday, 2 August 2018 20:51 (one month ago) Permalink

yes i’ve been drinking and yes i think about JL when i’ve been drinking.

Fizzles, Thursday, 2 August 2018 20:51 (one month ago) Permalink

it's easier to be bad in verse in many ways. i don't think we should undersell Lanchester's achievement since Capital - a lot of this stuff *stinks* at the levels of prosody, insight and story-telling, and yet his (i assume) friends continue to publish him.

the Joao looked at Jonny (Noodle Vague), Thursday, 2 August 2018 20:59 (one month ago) Permalink

it's easier to be bad in verse in many ways. i don't think we should undersell Lanchester's achievement since /Capital/ - a lot of this stuff *stinks* at the levels of prosody, insight and story-telling, and yet his (i assume) friends continue to publish him.


this is it isn’t it. your point about it being in some way harder to really make the prosaic prosaic is important. it’s not mcgonagall, in himself a somewhat charming figure, it’s panchester fucking up prose.

storytelling is beyond him. i accept that. i don’t worry about it. insight tho. i mean. he has anti insight (her mouth tasted fresh - NO - people go “ugh my mouth have u got mints, that curry last night yknow”). it’s like his instinct for words lol has fucked his understanding of people lol.

Fizzles, Thursday, 2 August 2018 21:14 (one month ago) Permalink

PANCHESTER PUBIC JESTERER.

Fizzles, Thursday, 2 August 2018 21:14 (one month ago) Permalink

when this thread hoves into view i always find myself thinking of Magnus Mills - who i haven't read in 20-odd years but who made his affectless mundanity work in ways that Lanchester doesn't even nod towards - and Craig Raine - who i haven't read in 30-odd years, have no desire to read in the future, and who still used his affected alienation to some purpose, lightweight as it may've been. Lanchester seems purposelessly ugly, accidentally surreal. i can't believe he has readers who aren't in it for the lulz.

the Joao looked at Jonny (Noodle Vague), Thursday, 2 August 2018 21:20 (one month ago) Permalink

when this thread hoves into view i always find myself thinking of Magnus Mills - who i haven't read in 20-odd years but who made his affectless mundanity work in ways that Lanchester doesn't even nod towards - and Craig Raine - who i haven't read in 30-odd years, have no desire to read in the future, and who still used his affected alienation to some purpose, lightweight as it may've been. Lanchester seems purposelessly ugly, accidentally surreal. i can't believe he has readers who aren't in it for the lulz.


the raine mars poem - i’m too lazy and indifferent to get the title right - has often come to mind with lanchester. i don’t really think lanchester understands anything about his writing. probably in part because he’s told how good he is. that lack of criticism feels like it might reach more widely into the inability to have a critical capability around culture wars stuff. if you’re allowing lanchester thru you have problems as a prestigious publication, as a literary coterie, as a bloody society.

Fizzles, Thursday, 2 August 2018 21:39 (one month ago) Permalink

you can’t say lanchester’s no good - *in your own area!* - then what help with serious problems of knowledge and trust.

Fizzles, Thursday, 2 August 2018 21:41 (one month ago) Permalink

I remember really, really enjoying The Debt to Pleasure back in the 1990s: I really should have another look and see if it's as cackhanded as his later fiction, or if he suffered some sort of head injury after writing that book.

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Friday, 3 August 2018 00:48 (one month ago) Permalink

And yet, I still enjoy his journalism, so what do I know?

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Friday, 3 August 2018 00:48 (one month ago) Permalink

same on the debt to pleasure, james. it’s partly why i picked up capital in the first place. keep meaning to go back. “slightly unsophisticated nabokov lite but quite funny and fun” is my memory. he had control of style, which is what he so clearly doesn’t have now.

argument in my head is that he can do unreliable first person (DtP) but becomes incredibly boring-patrician-voice and has evident lack of insight in third person (Capital).

also maybe a dose of fluid > crystallised mind, or to put it another way, he’s become more creatively stupid.

Fizzles, Friday, 3 August 2018 04:47 (one month ago) Permalink

Is it possible that he's just lazier now? The story in question reads like a 'just get to the end and refine it later' first draft, without the refining bit. I mean the alternative is that he read, reread and laboriously pruned that paragraph I posted and still at the end thought it was a good idea.

I'm sure earlier Lanchester is better but can you seriously imagine him trying to do sexy reality TV contestants in the first person?

Matt DC, Friday, 3 August 2018 06:41 (one month ago) Permalink

Ravaged by the Change, an island nation in a time very like our own has built the Wall--an enormous concrete barrier around its entire border. Joseph Kavanagh, a new Defender, has one task: to protect his section of the Wall from the Others, the desperate souls who are trapped amid the rising seas outside and attack constantly. Failure will result in death or a fate perhaps worse: being put to sea and made an Other himself. Beset by cold, loneliness, and fear, Kavanagh tries to fulfill his duties to his demanding Captain and Sergeant, even as he grows closer to his fellow Defenders. And then the Others attack. . . .Acclaimed British novelist John Lanchester, "a writer of rare intelligence" (Los Angeles Times), delivers a taut dystopian novel that blends the most compelling issues of our time--rising waters, rising fear, rising political division--into a suspenseful story of love, trust, and survival.

Matt DC, Friday, 3 August 2018 06:47 (one month ago) Permalink

I feel like we could literally write this book in its entirety in the five months between now and its release and no one would be able to tell the difference between it and the real thing.

Matt DC, Friday, 3 August 2018 06:50 (one month ago) Permalink

what if ilx pre-release but for novels.

and yes point taken on the first person love island contestant, i felt like my head had crashed just thinking about it.

lazier i don’t know. i don’t think he can know what good looks like. one possibility is that he’s not enormously well read in fiction and doesn’t have anything like an aesthetic sense. i mean he obviously doesn’t, but even in terms of reading. it doesn’t even feel like a case of “ah but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp”. more like a toddler trying to form a fist.

Fizzles, Friday, 3 August 2018 07:16 (one month ago) Permalink

lanchester does ballard! (re the wall). it’ll be great! why wouldn’t it be? he’s a writer of rare intelligence. a statement that makes me stare so hard at the entire fucking world.

Fizzles, Friday, 3 August 2018 07:17 (one month ago) Permalink

It is extraordinary that after all this discussion of Lanchester, Matt DC has just posted an incredibly melodramatic blurb for actual new Lanchester.

the pinefox, Friday, 3 August 2018 07:49 (one month ago) Permalink

I think I agree with James Morrison and Fizzles -- something strange has happened between the very early Lanchester fiction, and now. The other possibility is that the early work was much worse than we are remembering.

Like James M, I am still quite capable of enjoying his 'journalism', which is written in amiable bloke-ish, a voice not very good for fiction.

It is plain that he can publish what he likes in the LRB (think how often they publish fiction - Hilary Mantel the only other one?), and thus that there is a basic lack of quality control here.

the pinefox, Friday, 3 August 2018 07:51 (one month ago) Permalink

One of this week’s Proms:

Haydn: Symphony No. 104 in D major, 'London'

Interval Proms Plus
Novelists John Lanchester and Diana Evans discuss depicting contemporary London in their fiction with presenter Rana Mitter.

Vaughan Williams: A London Symphony (Symphony No. 2)

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Andrew Manze (conductor)

cheese is the teacher, ham is the preacher (Jon not Jon), Friday, 3 August 2018 11:45 (one month ago) Permalink

willing the half-man shape of pierre boulez to come hideously sucking and slithering onto the stage with the novelists, cry-hissing " rău rău rău"

mark s, Friday, 3 August 2018 11:49 (one month ago) Permalink

Ian McEwan giving Lanchester a run for his money: https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2018/07/19/dussel/

Zelda Zonk, Monday, 6 August 2018 05:40 (one month ago) Permalink

Yeah, that story is wretched. The worst kind of infodump SF-for-people-who-think-they're-too-literary-to-read-SF.

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Monday, 6 August 2018 06:26 (one month ago) Permalink

three weeks pass...

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/aug/03/perfidious-albion-sam-byers-review

Come back John Lanchester all is forgiven.

Matt DC, Monday, 27 August 2018 13:20 (three weeks ago) Permalink

never mind that one, here's praise from Augustus Caesar himself

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/aug/27/centrist-path-hardcore-brexiteers-corbynites

Noodle Vague, Monday, 27 August 2018 13:24 (three weeks ago) Permalink

“Jess popped to the toilet to tweet” is almost the Platonic ideal of a Lanchestrian sentence in its mix of try-hard banality and chuntering prose rhythm. The only reason I can think of for its being approvingly cited in this review is that there's an entire genre of novels out there which garners publicity largely as a result of making broadsheet journalists feel like they're both very smart and with their finger right on the literary pulse.

Matt DC, Monday, 27 August 2018 13:26 (three weeks ago) Permalink

I deliberately didn't post that Harris article because I didn't want to derail the thread with Corbyn chat but that's precisely the sort of clapping-seal approval I was getting at. The review he links to describes the novel as "an episode of Black Mirror as scripted by a “woke” Martin Amis" which is pretty much the least appealing thing I can possibly imagine.

I might actually read it.

Matt DC, Monday, 27 August 2018 13:30 (three weeks ago) Permalink

by ilx law you have to liveblog it if you do

mark s, Monday, 27 August 2018 13:32 (three weeks ago) Permalink

terrible sentences are ok because it's a madly funny rollicking farce with a cast mainly made up of scathingly ventriloquised grotesques

Noodle Vague, Monday, 27 August 2018 13:34 (three weeks ago) Permalink

i appreciate yr point re: Harris Matt, hopefully this is a thread where we can leave that scathingly ventriloquised grotesque outside

Noodle Vague, Monday, 27 August 2018 13:35 (three weeks ago) Permalink

A friend of mine has informed me in response to this that his wife is reading the following https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/nov/02/the-power-naomi-alderman-review

Same bloody reviewer too

imago, Monday, 27 August 2018 15:24 (three weeks ago) Permalink

Jesus christ that Byers thing sounds like some hideous lovechild spawned from the combined loins of J.G. Ballard and Tom Sharpe.

Category: Animist Rock (Matt #2), Monday, 27 August 2018 19:49 (three weeks ago) Permalink

'The Power' is hugely enjoyable fwiw.

Matt DC, Tuesday, 28 August 2018 15:50 (three weeks ago) Permalink

Where's the line with these satires though? I guess it's all about execution

imago, Tuesday, 28 August 2018 15:53 (three weeks ago) Permalink

Well the Alderman isn't a satire, which is one thing. It didn't make me think particularly deeply but it was a lot of fun.

Matt DC, Tuesday, 28 August 2018 16:00 (three weeks ago) Permalink

I’m better at dialogue. It took me a long time to figure out what it was for: it’s to give information to the reader in a different form so their eye doesn’t get wearied by the paragraphs. I used to think it was about imitating the way people speak.

Sebastian Faulks in an interview published today. Coming from somebody else I might think this was wilful provocation but he's being sincere. This is just such a weird binary to make

illegal economic migration (Tracer Hand), Saturday, 8 September 2018 22:06 (two weeks ago) Permalink

I've never read him but Jesus fuck that is not what dialogue is "for".

Matt DC, Saturday, 8 September 2018 22:09 (two weeks ago) Permalink

Yes, I read Wodehouse for the scintillating information

Chuck_Tatum, Sunday, 9 September 2018 00:55 (two weeks ago) Permalink

Is William Boyd anything like Lanchester?

I’ve only read one of his, Restless, iirc it read like a cackhanded SOTN type book with requisite banalities, albeit in thriller-ish form

Chuck_Tatum, Sunday, 9 September 2018 01:01 (two weeks ago) Permalink

i haven't really read any Faulks but he's fucking terrible so this checks out

fuck giving a bear beer (Noodle Vague), Sunday, 9 September 2018 12:54 (two weeks ago) Permalink

Boyd used to be good, except for his short stories. He seems to have decided he wants to be a commercial thriller writer now, though, and it does not suit him. The rot really set in when he published a commissioned short story for some car company and then a James Bond novel.

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Monday, 10 September 2018 00:02 (one week ago) Permalink


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