BOOK REVIEW / Rain never stopped play: 'In the Kingdom of Air' - Tim Binding; Jonathan Cape, 14.99

TIM BINDING has written a psychological study of childhood, a black comedy, another chapter in the sex war and several short essays. Unfortunately they are all pressed between the pages of one book and this is it.

He cannot choose between exposing the provocative thoughts and actions of Giles, his womanising weatherman, analysing his hero's phantom younger self, unravelling a childhood mystery story or glorying in a tale of adult redemption. So instead he incorporates them all, producing a book that can be funny and clever but which is mostly unwieldy.

The collected thoughts of Giles hint, rather self-consciously, at the sort of sex war novel that aims to woo both sides: look girls, this character may be a bastard but at least he's admitting it and, come on fellas, isn't this what's really going on inside your own head and trousers in spite of your aspirations towards New Manhood?

But each time Giles reaches his adult best we are taken aside and given huge doses of lyrical prose about the childhood that is supposed to have formed him. The two do not mesh and the passages that summon up his tiresome younger ego start by confusing and end by

irritating.

Binding gets most satisfaction weaving words around young Giles's obsessions with a fleet of flying boats and with cavorting naked at night through Kent. But the most enjoyable bits are the terser analyses and anarchic humour of the not-so- grown-up adult Giles. This book teems with ideas, styles of writing and varieties of weather, which he is particularly good on. As he also throws in one murder, a possible suicide, an accidental death, insanity, sexual regression and perversion, a comatose sister, a comic barman, a batty set of neighbours and the great storms of 1987, you can see why the whole thing runs to nearly 400 pages.

The observations of places and people are acute but so relentlessly detailed that they slow the pace and make you yearn for the directness of the naughtiest passages, with Giles's woman from Spain and his meteorological jokes about Lady Bracknell. The storyline is so busy, it is a wonder Giles has any time for his radio forecasts. His own climate shifts uneasily from sexual bravado to loathing of himself and his entire sex. In the end our rampant weatherman 'finds himself' in a way that is neither convincing nor appealing, by inflicting a severely occluded front on his own lower anatomy. It is hard to summon much curiosity for a further bulletin.

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