I’d finished this on SUNDAY after reading it over a few days, as a distraction from the slightly more factual and whimsical ‘Consolidations of philosophy’ by Alain De Botton. I’ve read alot of good books by American authors and very few by British ones, and finally realised that the reason for this is simply that the mostly male authors I had read tended to have an idiosyncratic style and ‘voice’ that makes them instantly recognisable whilst being somewhat derivative of American fiction, by this I mean the uniqueness of Stephen King, Selby, Bukowski, Hemingway, Miller, Easton Ellis, Palutnik, Bellow, Price, Leonard, Heller, etc. And had noticed that the few male British authors I had read, Welsh, McEwan, Fowles, Ballard, Tolkien, Pratchett, Gibson, Golding, Rushdie, Dickens, tended to write in a style and language that was more typically literary and ‘English’. With the exception of Welsh, Rushdie and possibly Fowles, British male authors tended to write novels in a more traditional literary form and seemed to let the Americans experiment more with language and style the way Joyce first did with the modernist novel, while the Brits stuck with the themes and narrative in novel form.
I raise this observation because although I think Glynn’s book is interesting and enjoyable in places, I was disappointed, and perhaps missed the point of the book somehow. Although I haven’t read Will Self, I sortof imagine that this would be the type of novel that he or Welsh would create as an experiment, but probably wouldn’t spend too much time on, as the form and narrative does seem to rehash some of what Welsh and Ellis have previously done before. The other novel it closely resembles and reminded me of was Neil Bartlett’s Skin Lane, about a middleaged man faced with similar claustrophobic paranoid impulses and delusions, and because it describes an often strange and dystopian vision of London.
The book is well written, with a passing resemblance to the middle-class angst of Ellis’s ‘American Psycho’, but minus the hilarious social and political satire, and also Welsh’s ‘Filth’, which I’d only read the first chapter of because I found the protagonist SO vulgar and repellent, and with none of the hysterics of Patrick Bateman.
But by the end of this short book, I don’t think you can help but feel disappointed by the cliches of having a first-person schizophrenic psychopath narrating himself subjectively. One reviewer commented that Glynn draws you in and allows you to empathise with the character, who is both a victim and a perpetrator, which somehow sets a moral dilemma within the character, but this isn’t nearly as convincing as it appears and seems rather facile and gimmicky. I never really believed the character or felt sympathy towards him or his apparent psychosis, unlike the harrowing and traumatic experience of reading genuinely disturbing behaviours and thoughts of Patrick Bateman or the abductee in Fowles The Collector.
Crumb’s character literally has nowhere to go except down and towards the inevitable loss of sanity and destruction, which again isn’t nearly as a spectacular and shocking as a reading Selby’s Last Exit to Brooklyn.
It’s hard to say exactly why the character is so dull and unconvincing, I suppose because the first-person narrator make the character too aware of himself and conscious of his own actions, which then restricts the plot entirely to what Crumb does from one plot to the next. Whereas both The Collector, American Psycho, Skin Lane and also Harris’s serial killer Dollahide in Red Dragon are narrated in the third person while exploring the character’s thoughts with free indirect speech.
Not great, but not bad