One Hand Clapping, By Anthony Burgess

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Howard Shirley is a used-car salesman with a nihilistic streak. He applies to appear on a TV quiz show and, thanks to his photographic memory, walks away with a fortune. He whisks his wife, Janet, off on holiday. But he remains strangely unsatisfied, and his plans take a dark turn.

First out in 1961, One Hand Clapping is one of several Anthony Burgess books that Beautiful Books is bringing back into print. In truth, it is one of his lesser novels. The author himself dismissed it as "a month's worth of bricolage, a jeu dashed off to make £100 or so", and the ragged plot betrays his disinterest.

But while it lacks the ambition of Earthly Powers or the stylistic virtuosity of A Clockwork Orange, it is intriguing, offering an incisive commentary on the Americanisation of the UK, and on the way TV acts as an opiate of the masses: "The people on the street didn't come out to see what was going on, as they would have done in the nosy days before TV," notes Janet, sadly.

Comments