BOOK REVIEW / The camera obscurer: Robinson - by Christopher Petit, Cape pounds 8.99
So is Robinson's narrator, nameless except for a brief reference to 'Christo', which is short, or petit, for Christopher Petit. Christo meets Robinson in Soho, describing him as 'like Orson Welles as Harry Lime in The Third Man'; in other words, there is no need to describe him in any depth. 'I fancied I saw in the high shine of his toe-caps a vain reminder of that introduction to Lime: 'EXT, VIENNA NIGHT - Close up, black Oxfords in doorway'. '
Robinson is the novel's Sinister Central Figure, and like most fictional SCFs he is a kind of moral black hole around which other characters orbit before being sucked in. Robinson and Christo go on drinking sprees; Christo gives up his job, loses his wife, takes to hanging round porn cinemas, goes for drunken midnight drives with Robinson, becomes a tenant in Robinson's flat, becomes an opium addict, weans himself off, misidentifies Robinson's drowned body in a morgue. Robinson comes back, gets Christo a job in a bookshop, introducing him to a Sandhurst rogue called Cookie; later they all start making porn films together, the whole enterprise unravelling as Robinson, self-
destructing on drugs and drink, tries to make 'the Citizen Kane of porno movies'.
This would all be fine if the stochastic succession of events were supported by anything more than the narrator's unblinking gaze. The camera is very good at picking up surfaces but it takes a good director to get beneath them, and Robinson, for all Petit's descriptive skills, suffers from being directionless. 'His gaze became unreadable, as neutral as that of a camera,' says Christo of Robinson towards the book's end, but Robinson's gaze has not been noticeably legible or charged before this. Hints at depth take the form of continual reminders of Petit's day-job: 'I thought about the last few months, and realised that if I had to write them up as a script it would begin: INTERIOR NIGHT.'
Well, maybe this book should have been a script. It takes more than the prose equivalents of mood-shots and camera angles to make a novel tick. The film might be something, though.
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 If I were Prime Minister: I'd give tax cuts to the rich, keep Trident, and get my football team wrong
- 2 Top Gear: Jodie Kidd, Philip Glenister and Guy Martin 'in advanced talks' to join show
- 3 General Election 2015: 14-year-old boy asks Nick Clegg – 'can you kill Katie Hopkins?'
- 4 University student in court for allegedly covering housemates' food in window cleaner and spit
- 5 Garland shooting: Isis claims attack on Prophet Mohamed cartoon contest in Texas as its first action on US soil
Top Gear: Jodie Kidd, Philip Glenister and Guy Martin 'in advanced talks' to join show
Eurovision 2015: What date is the song contest and who are the favourites to win?
Game of Thrones, season 5 episode 4, review: Sansa in danger of becoming another footnote in Westeros' bloody history
Noel Gallagher 'cannot wait' to hear Oasis-inspired One Direction album but rants about 'pointless' Tidal and Spotify
The highly NSFW poster for Gaspar Noé's Love makes Nymphomaniac look like 50 Shades
In defence of liberal democracy
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
Andy McSmith's Sketch: Feisty audience is the real star of an enlightening show