FOURTH ESTATE, £14.99 Order for £13.49 (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 0870 079 8897
Glover's Mistake, by Nick Laird
In the room, the men come and go
Monday 27 April 2009
There are three main protagonists in Nick Laird's second novel: Ruth, Glover, and the frustrated central character, David. It is through David's eyes that we see a romance developing between Ruth and Glover.
Laird compares Ruth to "one of Prufrock's females", and develops this allusion to pretension and neurosis. Ruth is a self-absorbed, successful artist whose egocentricity has been nurtured by many admirers. Unfortunately, we do not learn much more about her. It is hard to tell whether Laird is as seduced by her surface appeal as Glover and David, or content to portray a shallow, selfish woman.
As well as the ill-fated romance between an unsophisticated man and an older woman with a sex addiction, Laird attempts a satire on the contemporary art scene. Satire is a hard thing to pull off without some real rage and there is no such energy in Laird's writing. But he can be illuminating when he is contemplative: "Art was addictive, [David] realized, because analogy was a technique of integration, and thus gave endless, untrue hope for reconciling everything."
David is the saving grace of this novel. Looking for Michelangelo's disegno, acting as a kind of emblem for purity of heart and artistic purpose, he stumbles heroically through the mess he has made of his life. He is an immensely touching creature; Michelangelo's David coming to life.
Sometimes Laird attempts too much. In such a slim novel, he has too many peripheral characters and runs out of space to describe them. The subsidiary characters who do have zip and poignancy are the lower middle-class families Glover and David have left behind. Laird's writing sparkles when he stops satirising and gets to the heart of the matter; his prose touches on the truth of his characters in moments when simplicity suffices. Ruth makes a glass heart as a sculpture. At first, the symbolism creaks. By the end, when this glass heart has reached David's hands, it acquires some meaning.
Game of Thrones
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 VMAs 2015: Was Nicki Minaj and Miley Cyrus' awkward acceptance put-down real or staged?
- 2 If you're not already angry about the migrant crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
- 3 The nine most warmongering countries in the world revealed
- 4 Rules on 5p plastic bags likely to lead to arguments at the check-out
- 5 Blood Moon and Supermoon: September to bring brightest – and dimmest – full Moon of the year on same night
X Factor hopeful Mason Noise: 'How is Cheryl Fernandez-Versini in the music business, let alone a judge on the show?'
Trevor Noah, Edinburgh Fringe review: New Daily Show host warms up in inspired style
X Factor 2015: Ratings drop almost 2 million compared to last year's launch show
VMAs 2015: Taylor Swift and her buddy Kendrick Lamar clean-up at awards - full list of winners
Evian Christ cancels Reading festival appearance after being 'trapped in a cage' at Leeds by staff
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Tony Blair attacks Jeremy Corbyn's 'Alice In Wonderland' politics
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn