Shampoo and car crashes
THE PRIMITIVE Stephen Amidon Gollancz £14.99
Saturday 25 February 1995
The enabling mechanism of the book is, in good Hollywood tradition, a road accident. David Webster's best years are behind him: his marriage is shaky, his child has died and he finds little fulfilment in his work as a copywriter. One day, while out driving, he carelessly collides with a car driven by Sara. Because she is hurt, David follows her to hospital, only to find her in a coma. She fleetingly opens her eyes and smiles. The next day she disappears, but resurfaces soon afterwards outside David's office. Intrigued, he takes her to a hotel; later, lured by her oddity and her silences, he finds her a room in town, without telling his wife. As David becomes increasingly obsessed with Sara, the story of her strange and difficult past unfurls, forcing him to re- evaluate his profoundest beliefs.
This is all fine and interesting, but the weakness of the novel lies in Amidon's narrative voice. He is fatally addicted to overstatement, refusing to leave his characters alone. He forces them to speak aloud in order to reveal their motivation. This is a typical sentence: "Man, what the fuck are you going to do? David asked himself out loud." Yet when Amidon relaxes his stranglehold on the story, and steps back from the action, the novel breathes.
Suddenly, there is room and time enough for the characters to move independently. There is for instance, a lovely moment of tenderness when, early in their relationship, David washes Sara's hair. Her warm, serious voice, tinged with sadness, delights him. He moves towards her and pulls her into an embrace. The tension between them crackles like a wire; we know that he desires her.
This is the best moment of the novel precisely because Amidon withdraws from it and refuses to editorialise - and, consequently, we can respond to the lovers' inchoate sexual stirrings. Here the meaning is, for once, implicit in the gaps, the suspensions and omissions of the text, reminding us of the power of what Willa Cather called "the inexplicable presence of the thing not named, of the overtone divined by the ear but not heard by it".
BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital moveTV
Final Top Gear reviewTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Autistic teenager beaten up by bullies makes them watch 20-minute video about autism
- 2 Nick Kyrgios calls former Olympian Dawn Fraser a 'blatant racist' after she tells Wimbledon star to 'go back where their parents came from'
- 3 Chris Moyles reportedly set to make radio comeback with new breakfast show on XFM
- 4 The Greece debt crisis explained in less than 100 words
- 5 Cristiano Ronaldo storms out of interview after being asked about possible sale of Manchester United target Sergio Ramos
Game of Thrones season 6: Daenerys actress Emilia Clarke says '50/50 chance' Jon Snow is alive
Chronixx interview: Reggae sensation on taking the opening spot at Glastonbury and calling Barack Obama a 'waste man'
Game of Thrones season 6: Director Jack Bender says showrunners 'communicate closely' with George RR Martin
Amy Winehouse film: Mark Ronson praises 'respectful' movie as it scores highest ever UK opening for British documentary
Chris Moyles reportedly set to make radio comeback with new breakfast show on XFM
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Osborne to cap family benefits at £23,000 – announced ahead of his post-election Budget
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
Sickness and disability benefits could be reduced by £30 a week as part of £12bn welfare cuts