We are now beginning our descent – James Meek
02/04/2009 by Josephine Grahl
This is James Meek’s fourth novel, which I thought I’d read as I enjoyed his previous one so much, The people’s act of love.
I actually found this book so depressing that I had to stop reading it temporarily. It starts in Afghanistan, where the central character, Adam Kellas, is reporting on the war, and meets a fellow journalist from the US, Astrid. The novel then follows him back to London, where he has a sort of crise and smashes up the kitchen at a dinner party gathering of wanky London intellectuals. It was this bit that I found so depressing: Kellas’s (Meek’s?) anger at the self-satisfaction of the liberal journalists reflects some of my own feelings about the smugness of what passes for the liberal press in this country. The contrast between the war going on in Afghanistan and the abstractions of the newspaper editors and writers back in England is jarring and bitter and miserable.
After trashing his hosts’ kitchen, Kellas flies to America to find Astrid, and en route loses everything he has – including his enormous book deal advance. But Astrid is as lost and incapable with dealing with the return to the West as he is. I thought this book said a lot about the way that war, even war in a land far away about which we know little, has an impact on the way we operate. The fact that we split these things off from our own lives – we need to, because you can’t do anything else – has effects that reach further that we imagine, and the faultlines are particularly clear for anyone who has to move between these two worlds.