Friday, 19 September 2008

Guest Spot -- Adrian McKinty on Arthur & George


Adrian McKinty, a favoured writer here at CSNI, has been blogging away merrily both on his own 'The Physchopathology of Every Day Life' blog and on frequent guest spots at Crime Always Pays. I felt a wee bit left out, so I begged him for an article to post here. And it goes a little something like this...

Arthur & George by Julian Barnes
A Wee Review by Adrian McKinty


Holmes: What is that you have there, Watson?

Watson: A novel, Holmes. Have you read Arthur & George by Julian Barnes?

Holmes: I have not, nor have I read a review of the book, however from the title alone I can deduce many things.

Watson: You astound me Holmes, go on.

Holmes: It was written by an Englishman, a postmodern fiction writer, someone confident of their own ability to tell a story, but someone who might be taken as pretentious and even a little condescending by others. The prose style is no doubt of the careful Flaubertian mode: dry, slow, at times witty, but like so much of today’s prose, perhaps a little lacking in passion. Perhaps a little dull.

Watson: How did you deduce that Holmes?

Holmes: The use of the ampersand in the title when ‘and’ would have done just as well. It is the sort of trick that impresses a certain set of readers in Hampstead and Islington, subscribers to the Times Literary Supplement no doubt. But you did not let me finish, my dear Watson, I have reached other conclusions about the book as well.

Watson: Go on.

Holmes: It is the story of two men, Englishmen, almost certainly (‘Arthur’ is not common in the colonies) who are linked somehow, they lead parallel but separate lives and one assists or does mischief to the other. Since it is written in the modern style, I would venture that neither man is the “hero” of the story, and their lives intersect in complex rather than neat ways. Am I correct?

Watson: Indeed. It is the story of a young Indian solicitor who is accused of killing horses, is subsequently sent to prison and the attempt by Arthur Conan Doyle, the famous novelist, to get his conviction overturned. It is a true life case, imagined by English writer Julian Barnes. A detective story of sorts, but also a biography of two very different men and their families.

Holmes: Yes I should have mentioned families. That unseemly modern urge to pry beneath the surface of even the most respectable households. . .And how does this book of yours turn out?

Watson: That you won’t get from me, Holmes. I never reveal details of a patient or a plot.

Holmes: Indeed? Well, I am patient man, Watson, I will wait until your Afghan wounds are playing up again and you are crying out for the laudanum, then I will make my attempt to get the synopsis from you.

Watson: You fiend, Holmes.

Holmes: I have been called worse. Now, pass me The Times, Watson, let me see what those infernal, beggarly Irishmen have been getting up to…


27 comments:

adrian mckinty said...

I forgot to say that I actually liked the book. Er, thats pretty important information to give in a review, right? Thank god I dont try to make a living from this...oh shit I do.

Gerard Brennan said...

HAHAHAHAHAHA!

Ah, man, Adrian. You slay me sometimes.

gb

Michael Stone said...

Wasn't Arthur & George shortlised for a Man Booker? I think it was pipped by John Banville's The Sea, when Banville gave the Most Condescending Acceptance Speech Ever.

But anyway.

Nice review, Adrian. It made me smile. I remember reading a book about Conan Doyle's real life detective exploits. People would contact him asking for help with unsolved crimes. They clearly figured a famous writer of detective fiction knew more than their the local bobby. And Conan Doyle was such an obliging chap.

Gerard Brennan said...

Mike - God bless Google. I found a little something on that speech. Click here.

gb

Michael Stone said...

Gerard - See what I mean? Bit up himself, isn't he? What gets me is you get the same standard of writing in so-called populist novels as you do in the highbrow stuff, with the added bonus of a feckin' story!

And really, if "...a man's skin is so tanned it has "a purplish sheen"; a woman's post-chemotherapy hair is like "a cat's licked fur" are worthy of mention, I'll eat my hat. It fair gets my goat, it does.

Gerard Brennan said...

Mike - Aye, there's a clue or two in that article as to why he's not always considered the nicest chap in the world.

But story over highbrow writing? Surely you jest?

Sorry, but it's kinda fun to see you all riled up.

gb

Rachel M. said...

adrian did a reading with JB in Phoenix. you should ask him how that went sometime.

Gerard Brennan said...

Rachel - Okay, I'll bite.

Adrian - What's this story, then?

gb

adrian mckinty said...

Ah Miss Moore (I assume that is you?) did you know that John Banville is published by Holt in America and that his crime books are a big money earner for them? And that they are my new publishers?

You'll understand then when I say "no comment" to that particular thread.


Michael,

thanks for the thumbs up man. I liked this better than either of the other Julian Barnes books I read 10 and a Half Chapters or, the pretty terrible Flaubert's Parrot. The latter has ecstatic reviews all over the cover (Julian has many friends) but its not a novel at all just a collection of anecdotes. I have to say though, the first chapter of A History of the World in 10 and a Half Chapters is one of the funniest things I've ever read. The books goes downhill from there. Get it from the library.

adrian mckinty said...

Ger

I'll tell you over a pint.

A...

Gerard Brennan said...

Mr McKinty - Sold!

gb

Gerard Brennan said...

Oh, and kudos on the diplomacy, Adrian.

gb

Michael Stone said...

Adrian - What! John "Pah is for Populist" Banville is writing crime nowadays, and they sell in the States? I need to check this out. It feels like I've stepped into some weird parallel universe here...

Gerard - I'll buy you a pint after Adrian's visited, okay?

Michael Stone said...

Ah, tis true, Mr Banville writes as Benjamin Black, and would I be mistaken in thinking he's Irish?. Hey Gerard, you have to interview him! But, um, maybe you should play God and delete some these comments first.

rachel said...

adrian, can't believe you've become such a chicken ;)

colman said...

Spooky or what but Banville/Black and the literature/crime crossover trend was done by Barnes first.
He wrote a few crime novels in the 80's under the pseudonym of Dan Kavanagh, purporting to have come from Sligo.......I mean you couldn't make it up could you, whoever heard of anyone from Sligo not just writing a book but a decent one at that?

Anyway there's four books in the series about a bi-sexual copper called Duffy

www.dankavanagh.com

adrian mckinty said...

Colman

Didnt know that. So Barnes too was ashamed of being seen as a "crime writer" Sad.

Rachel

With age comes wisdom. Cept in my case, when its overwhelmed by cowardice.

colman said...

Ad,

I don't know the motivation behind the pseudonym,
I actually have the Duffy books or at least an omnibus edition of them, though I haven't yet read them.....no surprise there.
I'll also confess to picking up a copy of Flaubert's Parrot as well.....I think I was seduced by the cover....and the 3 million blurbs on the front telling everyone what a top bloke JB is.I tried reading it a couple of years ago, but put it down after a few pages.
There were obviously too many big words for me, and my thesaurus wasn't handy.......oh to be one of the great unwashed!

adrian mckinty said...

Colman

The thing about F P is that there's the germ of a good idea in there, there are two or three chapters that actually have a story but at least a dozen that are pure keek. I suppose if you're going over to Julian B's house for snooker and crumpets you're not going to say his book's rubbish in the Tuesday Guardian. But man those blurbs. Its like reading praise of Jim Jones or David Koresh. You think to yourself, god I must be pretty stupid not to be getting this. Which in my case could be true.

colman said...

I have to say the one biggie that I've read that I thought was complete and utter bollocks and then thought I'm obviously too dim to cop on to this was AMERICAN PSYCHO..........an absolute pile of complete and utter steaming,useless shitwankbilepuke coated in jizz......absolutely loathed it with a vengeance....about 10 hours of my life wasted that I can't ever get back, plus the subsequent time ranting and raving with a bit of gnashing of teeth thrown in for good measure....what a pretentious toss-wank that bloke must be.
It's a case of the emperor's new clothes as far as I'm concerned.....it reminds me of Damien Hurst and Tracey Emin....what a bunch of fuckin shysters they are.
Old Hursty must sit at home laughing his cock-off at how gullible everyone is, I just don't get it......next time he's short of the odd 10 million, all he has to do is lay his loaf on a dinner plate and some moron will pony up a few spondoloos, probably from the public purse and tell us all what a fucking treasure he is,

Then again I might just be a dribbling, incontinent moron....go on tell me you love Brett baby and the Brit-Art luvvies

adrian mckinty said...

havent read BEE so cant give an opinion. havent seen any of the films either.

Not a fan of DH. Success has a momentum of its own though and DH will sell throughout his life, but hopefully like Warhol there will be a major reappraisal after his death. I feel sorry for someone whose aesthetic judgement is so self conscious and unbalanced that they think what DH does is similar to what Seurat or Monet did. I like iconoclasts like Jonathan Meades who attempt to convince me of the loveliness of, say, The Bull Ring in Birmingham, but I've never heard an apologist for DH who has sounded remotely credible. DH boasts about his 'E' in A level Art while Turner and Picasso were both at the top of their class. I wonder who'll still be an icon a century from now?

Gerard Brennan said...

Jeez, lads. I was only gone for 12 hours.

Mike - I wouldn't feel right deleting these comments. And I'm sure he's a big boy with a thick skin. But I will contact him if I can.

Adrian - Thanks for keeping Colman busy. I wouldn't want him getting bored.

Colman - You're just not afraid to say anything, are you? I like that. You really should get a blog going to help you vent some of this stuff, though.

All - Ta for the fun read.

gb

Anonymous said...

Wicked!
And you did good to specificy that you liked the book,because it wasn't at all clear from your review.
By the way,since with you I always end up speaking of Alternate History, have you read the brilliant short story "A study in Emerald" by Neil Gaiman?
It is set in an alternate world where
the "crowned heads of Europe" are the Lovecraftian Great Old Ones .
It is available in pdf on Gaiman's site here
Better right click and save as because the file is large
Ciao
Marco

adrian mckinty said...

I was just about to go to bed.

Thanks for that Marco. Big fan of Neil G. back from the Sandman on.

Digging on HP. I spent a lot of time in Newburyport which of course figures prominently in HP Lovecraft and I used to play Call of Cthulu as a kid. Happy days. Happy insane days.

One final question. How is that everyone knows how to put linking hypertext in a comment except me?

Anonymous said...

Ahem.
So:

[a href="here copy and paste the web address"] here goes the text [/a]

only substitute [,] with <,>

Hope it's clear enough
Bye
Marco

colman said...

Nighty, night.....I can't do it either

adrian mckinty said...

ta marco