Book Group: The August choice - 'Clear' by Nicola Barker

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The Independent Culture

In a Christmas round-up, I described Nicola Barker's Booker long-listed box of tricks as "the hippest literary novel of the year" - a quote that you'll find on the cover of the paperback. Yes, I said it, and yes, it's very probably true.

Out of the illusionist David Blaine's 44-day starvation stint in a cage beside Tower Bridge, Barker spins a wonderfully sharp, sassy and knowing comedy of metropolitan manners, in a London crowded with performance artists of every stripe. At the same time I'm not quite sure that I meant that phrase in (as Dame Edna Everage might say) an entirely nice way.

I love Barker's quickfire patter of gags, allusions and one-liners, voiced through the motormouth charm of her metrosexual narrator. If your London means Hackney more than Hampstead, the city of Dizzee Rascal and Chris Ofili and people who curse that "the iPod's utterly filled up", Clear should be a transparent delight.

Yet it can be distracting and exhausting too, like an evening with your coolest mates in some shouty wine bar planted in the skeleton of a Thames-side warehouse. So let's hear your opinion....

'Clear' by Nicola Barker, Harper Perennial, £7.99

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