Books: Independent choice

American satire by Nick Kimberley

To judge from the space the Independent devoted to Tina Brown's departure from the New Yorker, we have an obsessive interest in New York media life. Most of us, I imagine, know little and care less about who runs what in Manhattan, although we do like stories that show our American cousins as backbiting lamebrains.

Step forward, Jay McInerney, always happy to cater for just such base tastes. After a brief sortie out of town in his last novel, McInerney is back on the island with Model Behaviour (Bloomsbury, pounds 14.99). We meet not one NY resident who isn't self-centred, neurotic, and unaware of life's larger pains. Actually, I lie, but the characters who don't fit that description are even less likeable than the rest.

McInerney's narrator has the agreeable habit of slipping from first, to second, to third person to talk about himself. Connor McKnight, showbiz newshound for Cioabella!, lives with a beautiful model whose love he doesn't deserve. So she leaves him. Or so he suspects. Meanwhile he has to secure an interview with a handsome dork who is the latest movie star we (I, you, he) all want to punch in the mouth. McInerney has spotted that today, news is only news if it's news about those in the news. This shallowness is his home turf, and though his targets are easy, and his sniping vindictive, he still makes us laugh. There's also a falling-out-of-love story here, which might be more touching if we weren't convinced that these saps don't have feelings, only echoes of feelings.

The cover of Ruth L Ozeki's My Year of Meat (Picador, pounds 9.99) all but amounts to misrepresentation. This is not a jolly jape in which a Japanese- American woman looks quizzically at American beef, but a semi-documentary savaging of modern farming methods. Here, too, narratives interwine: Jane Takagi-Little is making a TV series promoting US beef to Japanese housewives, one of whom is married to Jane's boss, a meat-eating sadist.

Bit by bit, the women find common ground in their struggles with men and meat. Ozeki describes both women's lives but seems most at home with Jane, no doubt because, like her, she's a Japanese-American "documentarian" (her word) who once worked on a TV series promoting US beef to Japanese housewives. Like much fiction that sets out to educate, Ozeki's novel is didactic and occasionally hectoring. Her Japanese TV executive is a grotesque caricature, even if he really exists. Yet My Year of Meat is also rather frightening; and in case we don't believe her, Ozeki provides a bibliography.

To complete this week's savaging of things American, Richard Dooling (a "practising attorney") takes on the legal system in Brainstorm (Secker, pounds 9.99). Sensibly, he resists the temptation to immerse us in head-to-head courtroom drama. The year is 2002, justice is all but computerised, and hate-crimes have generated extra strata of legal complexity. Prove that a crime is motivated by hate directed at the disadvantaged, rather than simply out of rage, jealousy or greed, and the sentence doubles. All very plausible, but then the OJ Simpson and Louise Woodward trials convinced us that anything is possible in US law. Indeed, unless you know that system intimately, it may prove difficult to discern what is fact and what is fiction here. That's a definite strength in what, despite a tendency to over-elaborate, is a pleasingly sceptical satire.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Engineer - Linux, Windows, Cloud - Central London

    £40000 - £48000 per annum + 10% bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Engin...

    Recruitment Genius: Quality Inspector

    £20000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: Female Buddy & Team Leader / Buddy

    £11 per hour: Recruitment Genius: To join a team working with a female in her ...

    Recruitment Genius: Configuration and Logistics Team Member

    £16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has over 30 years ...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence