The way you do

THIS IS IT by Joseph Connolly, Faber pounds 8.99

ERIC PIZER lies twisted and barely conscious in a Hampstead street, the double-decker that has just smacked into him trundling into the distance. "And yet this, he somehow felt, was just the beginning; oh God, he simply knew that this was just the bloody start."

For the ensuing 300 racy, relentless pages, a torrent of complications, indignities and physical agonies (and ecstasies) are rained down on Eric, as if he's in an episode of Fawlty Towers co-plotted by Martin Amis. Hobbling along on crutches, he has to find enough money to pay off Slingsby, a blackmailer who knows the Krays - and knows his secrets. For Eric is trussed up in a web of deceit. He spends his weekdays as a landlord and inadvertent pimp in London with his girlfriend Fiona, a clumsy, shopaholic vamp, and weekends with his ineffectual wife Bunty, who believes he works in publishing. Both women think he is writing a novel. And he is: so far he has completed 15 words. He also has to juggle his troubled friends, Jack and Penny, their obsessive teenage daughter, Helen, and two builders who are wreaking the same havoc on his house as the other characters are on his mind and body. "Oh Christ, it was all too ghastly even to think about."

Joseph Connolly's first novel, Poor Souls, was acclaimed, with the reservation that it was hard to sympathise with characters invested with no redeeming features whatsoever. The same goes for This Is It, only more so. It's sadistically enjoyable as a far-fetched farce, and its story indulges a fair array of male sexual fantasies, but the reader is left wondering why Connolly should have expected us to be interested in these shabby hustlers in the first place.

It's never quite explained how Eric has been able to set up and maintain separate lives and households in two different towns; it's just assumed to be another of those niggles that besets us all in this day and age. There are poignant moments, and a couple of incongruous dabs of political comment: Eric can't sit down in a hospital waiting room because "all the chairs are being maintained". Jack is ambushed by negative equity and redundancy. But of all the people these Nineties problems have affected, Penny, Bunty, Fiona and Co seem least deserving of our concern. If you find yourself reading on, it's because you wonder how on earth Connolly will be able to steer the lives of these human disasters into anything like a tranquil conclusion.

The intricate plotting is marred by some unconvincingly lucky breaks: the sudden unexplained death of one of the characters, the towering stupidity of one - make that most - of the others. And the supporting characters are caricatures Connolly doesn't even try to render believable.

What he concentrates on is a beady eye for the niceties of their behaviour ("She kissed air just to the left and right of Gillian's face") and an acute ear for the footling imprecisions and qualifications of their dialogue: "I simply said that Gillian said - What did she say? That he had a, Eric had a - oh, I don't know what she said, but it was all about the little boy lost, sort of thing."

This observation is hollowed by his contempt for his characters, and yet he doesn't actually satirise them. What in the end could he be satirising? Chattering Hampsteaders? Not unless they have lives as weirdly complex as those of Eric and friends. Shallow, amoral people in general? No, because Connolly doesn't offer us causes for or alternatives to their ways of life, he just presents them as if to say, as the characters themselves so often do: "This is it."

Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee