I am having an absolute TRIUMPH of an evening. I have a negroni IN MY HAND, have just finished reading the EXCELLENT Politics by Adam Thirlwell, and the moment I finish this blog I am going to go and ensconce myself in front of Zelig, a supposedly great Woody Allen film I’ve never seen. Wow. Even in the depths of essay fever I still know how to HAVE A GOOD TIME. (Alone and quietly.)
I first became aware of Thirlwell when I read Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists 4 last Summer. I thought he conspicuously stood out and I’d been intending to read something of his since then, but had never quite gotten around to it. But now I have, and I had a ruddy good time.
Politics is about a three way relationship: the emotions and conflicting intentions and desires of a 50% larger than usual (in terms of number of people included) “couple”. It features an incredibly prominent narrator who tells the story with charming (though occasionally a little grating) bombast and exuberance. There are digressions aplenty, into architecture, history, philosophy, literature et cetera et cetera et cetera, and it reads as a well-informed and informative text. The sexual detail is extreme though perhaps a little – for my taste – too successful. I like sex to be written as if a serious and dangerous problem, whereas here it is just an accepted, usually pleasant, thing that happens between people. The characters don’t cry every time they have sex and sometimes more than one person reaches orgasm. These are not the kind of sex scenes I would EVER write.
It is a very stylised text, it is a narrator telling a story. And for that reason I suppose it isn’t the kind of thing I would aspire to creating myself (“TELLING STORIES IS TELLING LIES”*), but neither is Toy Story 3 the kind of thing I would aspire to making, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have a great time watching it.
SO, yes. Politics is a great novel. It is funny, it is clever, it is short (which counts for something), and it presents many beautifully evoked relationships, and not just romantic ones: the one between the main female protagonist and her father is particularly touching.
To conclude: it’s readable and it’s good and it’s not much of a commitment. If you’re looking for a snappy contemporary British novel, this would be a pretty good one to try. And it’s full of sex, which people seem to like nowadays, you filthy bloody bastards…
* That was the motto of my truth-obsessed favourite novelist, B. S. Johnson. His sex scenes are almost always awful. YES!