I am trying to read a bit more contemporary fiction, as I actually don’t know any contemporary writers except ones I despise. This surely gives me an unfair idea of the fiction-writing community.
However, this was a bad choice. The central character and narrator is completely obnoxious, and well-drawn enough to remain obnoxious throughout the novel, so it was like spending a few days with the biggest nobber you know. I was perplexed as to what this book is about. It’s narrated by Ken Nott, or McNutt, a left-wing shock-jock (is there even such a thing?) working for a commercial radio station he despises. In fact he despises most things, except sounding off about his views at tedious length and in an unbelievably irritating smart-arse style. Is this satire, or are we meant to sympathise with him? For the first three quarters of the book he drifts about, sounding off at regular intervals with his facile views (he is like one of those men you meet at parties who think conversation is a martial art) and then in the last hundred pages some plot happens, most of which seems to come straight out of a Guy Ritchie film.
But I just didn’t get this book. The central character in incredibly obnoxious, so is it satire? Am I supposed to feel an amused contempt for all these dreary London media stereotypes? Or am I meant to pity the emptiness of their coke-snorting, Docklands-loft-apartment lives?
I’m put off the satire idea by the fact that all the women are gorgeous and full of warm intelligence. Each of them elegantly calls the hero out on his bullshit before just as elegantly falling into bed with him; each of them is beautiful and sexy and utterly unmemorable, forcing me to flip back through the book to remember which is which. I would honestly rather a book full of bitches than have my own sex put on a pedestal like this – but who is putting women on a pedestal — the writer, or his character the narrator?
So maybe not satire. But in that case are we supposed to feel for the irredeemably stupid narrator and sympathise with his lengthy diatribes? Only one of them is any good (I will post it when I can find the book). The rest of the time he’s a ginormous prick. A well-drawn, convincingly obnoxious ginormous prick, but that’s not enough to make the novel worth reading.
My cohabitee and others assure me that Iain Banks can be better than this, so I won’t write him off yet. Recommendations for other books of his to try?