Well I’m back from a couple of weeks annual holiday and time to update the blogs. The problem with taking this break was I finished this novel on my first day so the recollections could be a bit dimmed by the sun, reefs and rainforest.
Let me introduce you to Egon Loeser (you can follow him on twitter although you can’t find author Ned Beauman there), a set designer in 1930’s Berlin who is working on a play about the life of Adriano Lavicini, a fellow set designer from the Renaissance who presumably died when his teleportation machine destroyed the theatre on its debut. Egon is building a teleportation set, whereby people can travel across time and space and appear at any point of the stage almost seemlessly. But deep down Egon is struggling, he hasn’t has sex since he split up with his girlfriend a long time ago and a glamorous former student, Adele, has just returned to his life only to run off, for a one night stand, with an author who has stolen Egon’s hero and written an ill researched pulp story. A heartbroken Egon then proceeds to Paris to find Adele, unsuccessfully of course,come across a longevity plan where the transplanting of monkey glands might just work. And then finally onto Los Angeles where he befriends a local writer (one of his heroes) and his charming wife Dolores Mutton as well the owner of a pulp fiction book store who introduces him to HP Lovecraft. Of course he becomes involved in time travel via a secret university study into a real teleportation device.
This novel is hilarious in parts, so much so I was laughing out loud on the train:
You could certainly write symphonies about Dolores Mutton. You could write at least a scherzo about her cleavage alone.
Dear Mother and Father. Good news: I am rich. I have cornered the market in foreskins.
As a result, no doubt, of some bureaucratic oversight, Sunset Boulevard had a beginning and a middle but no end. The cost was not far now, but Sunset Boulevard probably just rolled on down the beach and into the water and onwards to Shanghai.
I will stuff this book so far down your throat that your duodenum will autograph it in bile.
Ned Beauman’s novel is one weird piece of work. Besides the laughing out loud, the engagement with the writing styles and settings is engrossing. For over 240 pages I was totally extolling the virtues of this young writer, then the novel seemed to fall apart for 100 or so pages. The section covering the sci-fi style of Lovecraft was not my cup of tea. However I did enjoy the four leaps in time as the ending, which (for some reason or other) reminded me of David Mitchell’s “Cloud Atlas”. This also had hints of David Foster Wallace, but not as detailed (no footnotes here). And the use of time (as part of a Teleportation Accident) was extremely clever – how can I person in the 1930’s discuss what it may be like in 2012 and be so uncannily accurate?
I can understand why this novel didn’t make this year’s shortlist, for me it was the flat section late in the novel, however I will be hunting down his debut “Boxer, Beetle” – as well as continuing to follow the fictional Egon Loeser on twitter. I will also be looking out for future work from Ned Beauman who, at only 27 years of age right now, will certainly become a well-known writer.
Next up will be my review of Will Self’s “Umbrella” – now that was a challenging read!!!