PICADOR £12.99 £11.99 (P&P FREE) 08700 798 897
Man Overboard by Tim Binding
Sunday 17 July 2005
On the first page Binding gorges on the poetic possibility of this Baltic fate: "It is cold here and the windows look out over snow-capped trees to the hidden town below. I have a blanket over my legs but still the winds of Mother Russia fly under the door and seize the room." The sanatorium in which Crabb is dying is described as sitting above the town "like a deposed monarch, frozen in attitude, waiting for obeisance".
Elsewhere Crabb is portrayed as a man of few words, a right-wing stiff, so why is he spouting such stuff? At times the character feels uncomfortably like the author's pawn, a literary marionette. He cor-blimeys at renaissance masterpieces during a posting in Venice, muses on Keats and even hangs Picasso prints in his hospital ward during a bout of jaundice.
Half-way through the novel, something powerful enough to derail my knee-jerk cynicism finally occurs. In an episode reminiscent of "Verochka", Chekhov's tale of a stillborn affair, Crabb inexplicably retreats from the sexual love offered to him by his Italian girlfriend. "She breathed in deeply; her body rose up under my hold, monstrous and misshapen, a cold pallor upon it, as if drowned. I drew my hand back." Before this, Binding's attempt to portray a man at odds with himself only added to the reader's sense of the character as a puppet. Failure brings Crabb to life. Finally, the reader can accept the psychological nuances Binding brings to his protagonist. The retrospective jog through war-tattered London becomes strangely haunting.
This novel certainly has its faults and Crabb's synthetic literariness repeatedly jars. But Man Overboard is an enjoyable read, and streaked with a quiet lyricism for which you can forgive many sins.
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Crystal meth addict 'gouged out his eyes and ate them' while high on drug, Australian MP claims
- 2 Saudi Arabia 'seeking to head United Nations Human Rights Council'
- 3 Irish people are travelling home from all over the world so they can vote to legalise gay marriage
- 4 Witch doctor arrested after forcing newborn baby to walk in Indian village
- 5 Arsenal fan asks the Queen for tickets to the FA Cup final - gets a reply from Buckingham Palace
Cannes Film Festival rejects women from red-carpet screening of pro-LGBT romance 'Carol' for not wearing high heels
'We didn't really think we'd get away with it': The astonishing story of how two young Irish men completed an audacious £7m art heist
Game of Thrones rape scene criticised as 'disgusting' by US senator Claire McCaskill who says she's 'done' with show
Eurovision Song Contest 2015 final: As Google celebrates the competition with a Doodle, here are 7 things you might not know
Beyonce angers fans by pouring expensive champagne into hot tub in Nicki Minaj 'Feeling Myself' video
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
Report finds that Britain's wages are the most unequal in Europe
Almost a third of school pupils believe 'Muslims are taking over our country', study claims
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
Gay marriage 'Bert and Ernie' cake bakery found guilty of discrimination in Northern Ireland