BOOK REVIEW / In Brief: Spring Street Summer - Christopher Hudson: Viking, pounds 16.99

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The Independent Culture
In this reactionary slice of autobiographical fiction, Christopher Hudson lurches back into his youth. As a disillusioned twentysomething from a public school background, Hudson had fled to the United States on the pretext of writing a thesis about notions of Paradise in Western culture - only to wind up spending the summer of 1976 in a Santa Cruz student commune falling in love, and fooling around with gopher snakes in a place all too much like the Garden of Eden. Returning 13 years later, disillusioned once again, this time after the materialistic 1980s, he sets out to recapture those heady days. Except, of course, that the Garden of Eden is now no more than rubble and undergrowth and, as the old friends he traces confirm, it never had been much of an Eden in the first place.

The Genesis story limps through the whole of this book: America is seen as the world's second chance at Eden, and Hudson tries to graft the emotional turmoil of his personal Fall on to the obsession with Paradise that has afflicted philosophers from St Paul onward. But he makes it no further than cliches about the unreliability of memory and the elusiveness of golden ages. Moreover, he writes like a man stranded inside a cultural tunnel that has no reference except to itself and no choices other than those laid down by previous generations. Blissfully unaware of his false assumptions both about memory and about the Sixties, he seeks consolation in a pragmatic domesticity of mortgages, kids and routine, built 'with hard work and disappointments commingled with the marvellous things'.