Picador, £12.99 Order for £11.69 (free p&p)from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
The Tenderloin, By John Butler
Right start for a debut dotcom tale
Tuesday 21 June 2011
Debut coming-of-age novels are nothing new, but ones that freshen the genre are. John Butler's The Tenderloin, about three young Dublin twentysomethings who head to San Francisco during the dotcom explosion of 1995, updates a familiar story without sacrificing those things we've come to expect – sexual exploration and identity, loneliness, the ambiguities of adulthood.
Butler's mid-1990s San Francisco is a city linked to the past (Deadheads in Haight-Ashbury) even as it leaps into the future (Windows 95). After bumming around looking for temp jobs, Evan lands work in the internet start-up Forwardslash as a runner for the programmers and other computer geeks whose moment in history has arrived. The novel begins at the end of Evan's narrative, at a company BBQ, where "the CEO, CFO and COO flipped meat for the minions and announced the news of our imminent IPO on the NASDAQ – you could not move in this town for acronyms." The future doesn't have time for complete words.
If San Francisco is the place of the future, then Ireland is the place of the past. Evan, his hero-worshipped best friend, Milo, and Milo's girlfriend, Roisin, are all in flight from history, even as their emigration to America re-enacts it. Virginal Evan is sexually repressed, his curious relationship with a mentor and father-figure subtly explored. In the end, however, even the promise of a new-world future can't alter his adherence to a life of "plausible deniability". Milo and Roisin leave behind in Dublin various family secrets, lies and betrayals. Butler doesn't dwell on history, but the past is always present even as the seductive future beckons.
There is a wry moment at the BBQ when the CEO makes a rousing speech, reminding his employees that "we are in the future business" but warning them not to be complacent. The past, for him at that moment, is the Apple computer, since "everyone here knew that Apple was being crushed mercilessly by Intel and Microsoft, consigned to the history books, an also-ran with so many similar versions of itself competing with other versions of itself that no one knew what it was any more, apart from slightly rubbish." The mistake, which we all know now, was to write off Apple and to think that many versions of the self are necessarily a bad thing. Like Apple, Butler understands that this may simply be an important part of growing up.
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 2 Kim Kardashian on Bruce Jenner's 'story': 'We support him no matter what, and I think when the time is right, he'll talk'
- 3 Russian girl takes her own life after parents find pornography on her computer
- 4 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 5 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
The Jump 2015 line-up: Joey Essex, Mike Tindall, Jodie Kidd and co take to the slopes
Game of Thrones: Grey Worm actor Jacob Anderson is all for more male nudity – as long as he can keep his clothes on
Roald Dahl letter warning student to 'eschew beastly adjectives' goes viral 35 years later
Martin Scorsese 'in shock and sorrow' after death on set of new film Silence
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures