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The dialogue belongs to the Theatre of the Absurd: language falls apart; meaning becomes elusive or elliptical.
The book opens with the shoe salesman Kiel telling Elsa that the pair she is trying on ‘fit like a glove’, in an echo of the opening of The Driver’s Seat.
In its place I advocate the arts of satire and of ridicule. I would like to see in all forms of art and letters, ranging from the most sophisticated and high achievements to the placards that the students carry about the street, a less impulsive generosity, a less indignant representation of social injustice, and a more deliberate cunning, a more derisive undermining of what is wrong. The only effective art of our particular time is the satirical, the harsh and witty, the ironic and derisive. The rhetoric of our times should persuade us to contemplate the ridiculous nature of the reality before us, and teach us to mock it . This is a most peculiar hybrid of a novel, and one of its themes is hybridity.
And I see no other living art form for the future . I would like to see less emotion and more intelligence in these efforts to impress our minds and hearts . Because we have come to a moment in history when we are surrounded on all sides and oppressed by the absurd . Literary writers – such as Kingsley Amis, Julian Barnes and John Banville – have all flirted with writing “genre” novels.
Elsa, however, is sure she is right, while her analyst Garven is more interested in his client’s shadow, which always falls the wrong way.
Elsa and Paul’s son Pierre, meantime, is putting together a stage version of JM Barrie’s Peter Pan, in which all the roles will be played by geriatrics.
Like most good novelists, he is also good on weather; at times you may feel you are trapped in misty, heavily-polluted Lima.
The Neighbourhood can’t be said to match his best work, or indeed come close to it. If you don’t look for a masterpiece here, you will find a fast-moving crime novel, with an erotic sub-plot – a novel which also offers a searing picture of political corruption and brutality in his native Peru.
It is not a story to wear its borrowings lightly, but retains an atmosphere all of its own.
I came to Bond early, thanks to a review of, I think, Live and Let Die by Raymond Chandler in the Sunday Times. As early as 1965, Muriel Spark had a title in mind for a new book. The novel itself, however, would not appear until 1973, much changed from its original incarnation, as Spark herself would confide during a 1970 interview with the Guardian newspaper: “I’m so interested in the present tense that I’ve redone a book I’ve been working on for three years, The Hot House by the East River, and put it all in the present tense.” The present tense gives the illusion of immediacy and veracity – this story is happening right now, in real time.
Ian Fleming was the paper’s foreign manager, and Chandler was a friend of his, but that’s no reason to think Chandler’s approval insincere. The persistence of foxes – that totem in Hughes’ own work. Spark had used the present tense to good effect in The Driver’s Seat (1970) and Not to Disturb (1971).
Benjamin Myers is nothing if not compendious in this exceptionally engaging and curious work.
For a few years in the 1960s, Spark made Manhattan her home.
There is a burgeoning subgenre of the techno-apocalypse, with William Gibson and Philip K Dick being the most obvious examples.