Independent choice: literature for lads
It helps, too, if the young lady - how shall we put this? - is prepared to motor in reverse gear. To put it plainly: most of these books share the conviction that anal intercourse (with a woman - all these men are unequivocally hetero) is the greatest treat a boy can have.
Perhaps we should start by mentioning the exception to this rule: John L Williams's Faithless (Serpent's Tail, pounds 8.99). Williams is best known as an advocate of hard-boiled US crime fiction, so I half-expected his first novel to be a homegrown version. Mercifully, Faithless is decidedly British, in its weary, self-deprecating tone and its faithfully observed setting - London in the early Eighties.
The narrator, Jeff, a one-time aspiring rock musician, gets involved in a misguided attempt to blackmail a former mate who is now a big star. It all goes horribly wrong, and he ends up in trouble with far greedier and more vicious criminals. (The analogy with Thatcherism is blatant but not over-schematic.)
True, the book does have its anal side. Jeff works in a record-shop (it's presumably this, and the action in the vicinity of Highbury, that the blurb-writer had in mind when comparing Williams to Nick Hornby), which provides the excuse for some tedious rock trivia. The particularity of Williams's London settings and his unaffectedly witty prose are compensations. They look especially attractive next to the hugely affected, would-be witty prose of Charles Kennedy Scott's Low Alcohol (Headline Review, pounds 8.99).
It's worth quoting a paragraph from Scott: "So where am I going? Yes, you may well ask: Where am I going? And, if you see me walking the streets with my aimless face, my off-centre hairstyle, my worn clothes and my shiny new boots, you may well wonder: where is he going?"
Well, he'd have to be going somewhere pretty bloody interesting to justify that blather. Sadly, despite some nicely turned moments of farce, Low Alcohol is a dull and profoundly annoying satirical fantasy in the manner of Martin Amis, full of urban angst, millennial portents and significant names. Scott's imagination falls between the stools of merciless precision and bludgeoning savagery.
The names, for example, are neither overtly funny (remember Caduta Massi in Amis's Money?) or blatantly meaningful (as in John Self). So our apathetic, self-pitying narrator is called Doug Down; he is haunted by a paranoid woman calling herself Lucia de Londres and his best mate (whose ex-girlfriend he eventually shags) is a soi-disant comedian called Andy Cipolin. The ex-girlfriend herself is Annis, which turns out to be a nickname derived from her favourite sexual practice. No prizes for guessing what that is (in Amis's London Fields, Nicola Six was similarly inclined). "Most girls like it," Annis tells Doug, "though they prefer not to admit it."
John McKenzie's Are You Boys Cyclists? (Serpent's Tail, pounds 8.99) is more critical of male fantasies; which is not to say they're not on offer. "Don't worry," Matt, the narrator, reassures the reader: "This book isn't going to miss being part of the wank industry if I can help it." It is, you'll gather, a self-referential book, mixing a narrative about boxing, drugs, unemployment and sex in the Edinburgh of 1977 with musings on writing and reading books. Matt isn't far wrong when he describes it as "a cross between Charles Bukowski, Henry Miller, Jeanette Winterson and Kurt Vonnegut".
The climax arrives with twin orgies of violence and sex - intercut descriptions of a boxing match and a marathon sex session with Matt's best mate's ex, culminating in, um, a trip to the moon. It's hard to say if this is intended as male wish-fulfilment, or some sort of criticism. I'm not sure, either, whether this book is genuinely joyless and solipsistic or just pretending.
Mark Blackaby's Look What They've Done to the Blues (Gollancz, pounds 9.99) is straightforward wish fulfilment: the hero, Charlie (a professional thug who's been to university), combines a middle-class frame of reference with working-class credibility. He is good-looking, tough, clever, irresistible to women and destined to be hugely rich, if he can collect the proceeds from an old job - a task that provides the vestigial plot. Even with these advantages, he contrives to be one of life's losers (thankfully, or the book would be unbearably smug). It's his ex who gets shagged by his best mate, and he doesn't get the ultimate sexual treat but merely watches a video of somebody else doing it. Hardly elevating, but certainly entertaining. That's how boys like it.
'At times I thought he was me'film
Review: One Direction, Fourmusic
Review: The World of Ice and Firebooks
Film More romcom than S&M
Review: The Imitation Gamefilm
Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars
TVNetflix gets cryptic
TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth
Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 To help fuel their propaganda machine against the poor, our government has now decided to redefine the word 'welfare'
- 2 Anti-gay hate preacher accidentally tweets 4,000 followers cartoon clip of him 'confessing' to be a 'homosexual sodomite'
- 3 Woman opens professional cuddling shop – gets 10,000 customers in first week
- 4 Grayson Perry: London needs affordable housing because 'rich people don't create culture'
- 5 Kenya bus attack: Al-Shabaab militants slaughter 28 non-Muslims who failed to recite Koran
Lee Evans announces his retirement from comedy on The Jonathan Ross Show
Iggy Azalea responds to Eminem rape lyrics: 'I'm bored of old men threatening young women'
Beyonce '7/11' music video: Star bounces on bed and films daughter Blue Ivy in lo-fi homage to viral video
Angelina Jolie confirms retirement from acting: 'I've never been comfortable on-screen'
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking leaked footage from Lana Del Rey rape video
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
France 'blocks' Russian sailors from boarding a warship
Revealed: How the world gets rich – from privatising British public services
Myleene Klass: Ed Miliband 'strikes back' by comparing UK's need for Labour's mansion tax to Hear'Say track