Jonathan Cape, £14.99 Order at a discount from the Independent Online Shop

A Great Big Shining Star, By Niall Griffiths

This novel offers a bleak take on our appetite for celebrity and the new face of fame

We might not quite live in the future Warhol predicted, where everyone is famous for 15 minutes, but certainly the nature of fame is changing. As reality TV shows and print and online scandal sheets demand ever more celebrities, it seems to be undergoing a process of hyperinflation. The word "celebrity" seems to be detaching itself from the mothership of fame to become a near-synonym of the lesser "personality".

The teenage heroine of Niall Griffiths's new novel is one of those whose consumption of Closer, Grazia and the rest builds a lust for access to that world that comes to seem almost like a sense of entitlement. Gracie Allcock is pretty enough, but with a nose job, then a boob job, why shouldn't she have what Katie Price has, or at least Jodie Marsh?

The book opens with a gruesome description of a rhinoplasty ("The spike was removed and replaced with a spatula-thing… another masked man took up a 3 lb hammer") that neatly prefigures Gracie's true entry into celebrity. This comes when her agent despatches her to a particular nightclub, on a particular night, where she is "harvested" and then "roasted" by a trio of Premiership footballers. Readers unfamiliar with these terms may wish to look them up on urbandictonary.com. Or they may not.

Mobile-phone footage of the incident ends up on YouTube, and the celebrity machine kicks into action: tabloid exposure, photo-shoots, revenge interview with ex-boyfriend, hanging out with pop stars. In truth, there is not much in the Gracie's story that is revelatory, or even really compelling. There is little of the insight to the "entertainment" treadmill that Andrew O'Hagan showed in his novel Personality (based on the life of Scottish child star Lena Zavaroni) but then celebrities don't really have to "entertain" any more, just get on with their miserable lives and be papped while doing it.

To be fair, Griffiths is less interested in the experience of celebrity from the inside than in the mindset of the people who lap it up. This is where the second narrative voice comes in, that of 42-year-old Kurt, failed father and caretaker at the local primary school. He remembers Gracie when she was an innocent eight-year-old, and he watches her progress with a horror that doesn't preclude him drunkenly masturbating to "her" video clip.

It is his apocalyptic rages at the iniquity of humankind in general, and himself in particular, together with his lyrical absorption in the natural world – of frogspawn, cuckoo spit, a dragonfly drying its wings after emerging from its nymph: "dusk-light in the lacework, twilight in the tracery, the abdomen long and thin and striped yellow and black like a racked wasp" – that carry the book beyond being the bleakest of jeremiads. Griffiths's incantatory style has always been his strongest card, and it is put to good use, but it's a shame that the ending seems equally familiar from his previous books.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
    Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

    That's a bit rich

    The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
    Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

    Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

    Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
    Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

    Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

    Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
    A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

    Britain's Atlantis

    Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

    David Starkey's assessment
    Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

    'An enormous privilege and adventure'

    Oliver Sacks writing about his life
    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
    Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

    Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

    Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
    Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

    Set a pest to catch a pest

    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests