The House of Rumour By Jake Arnott
Here's what happened when Ian Fleming recruited an occultist
Saturday 30 June 2012
How do we decide which bits of a story are relevant? How tenuous do the connections between disparate elements have to be before we can call a sequence of events a plot? Is Jake Arnott's new novel built – as its section headings imply – around the Major Arcana of the Tarot deck or is this, as the various narrative strands might be, mere coincidence? This is a book about our urge to make sense of things, to turn happenstance into story.
A young Ian Fleming is one of the major characters of House of Rumour as he recruits the ageing occultist Aleister Crowley to the war effort and accumulates incidents in the life of an intelligence officer that he will use later on in his fiction. Two young science fiction writers hang around the fringes of fandom and occultism in the early 1940s and witness the magical working that rocket scientist Jack Parsons may have done in collaboration with Crowley. Hitler's deputy Rudolf Hess flies to Scotland in a half-baked attempt to broker peace; decades later, he hangs himself in jail. A dossier on Hess passes through the hands of a trans hooker, and two rock singers. The star of a film about alien abduction dies in the Jonestown massacre.
The world of intelligence, the world of creativity, the world of the occult – all these dance round each other flirtatiously. We never quite know for sure who is using and who is being used. This kaleidoscope of narrative fragments sometimes looks like a pattern and sometimes like gaudy chaos, but always glitters. Arnott is not just a cynical games player fascinated by the possibilities of structure and thought experiments. He has the capacity to make us care about humanity, even of a monster like Hess.
Whatever he touches on feels right, whether he has made it up or looked it up; this is a supremely intelligent book as well as a surprisingly warm one.
Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigourfilm
Bannatyne leaves Dragon's DenTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Game of Thrones author George RR Martin says 'f*** you' to fans who fear he will die before finishing Westeros saga
- 2 Loom bands: Bids for dress made from colourful rubber pass £170,000 on eBay
- 3 Why I'm on the brink of burning my Israeli passport
- 4 L'Oreal cuts ties with Belgium supporter Axelle Despiegelaere after hunting trip photographs
- 5 The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week
Sustained immigration has not harmed Britons' employment, say government advisers
War is war: Why I stand with Israel
7/7 memorial defaced on anniversary of 2005 attacks with ‘Blair lied thousands died’ graffiti
Australia facing international condemnation after turning around Sri Lankans at sea
Even when it brutalises one of its own teenage citizens, America is helpless against Israel
Socialist Worker called to apologise over ‘vile’ article saying Eton schoolboy Horatio Chapple's death is ‘reason to save the polar bears’