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Hope by Glen Duncan

"Nothing holds love together like shared vice or collusive perversion."
"Grace only exists to be 
fallen from." Glen Duncan
I, Lucifer 
So says Glen Duncan, author of several of my favourite British novels in recent memory (most notably I, Lucifer, once reviewed, stunningly ineptly, on my behalf by some crackpot nitwit at Waterstone's [sorry, seems I included a redundant apostrophe there] HQ). More on that quotation and its relevance in a moment, but for now, on with the review.

Hope as I understand it is the first in the Duncan chronology and as such in places it does feel like he's working out some of the issues with reader-goading, info-dumping and whatnot that new authors need to be told to avoid by a trustworthy (or mercenary) editor. It may explain why, when first published, it was touted as that summer's "essential first novel" [Matthew De Abaitua in Esquire] and yet now is difficult to buy new. There is a recurrent motif, of memory as stones dropping into a pond of time and over which the 'author' has no control, which returns to haunt the narrative every so often, as does the thing left deliberately unsaid to impart a sense of climax to the consequently disjointed story line. These two devices alone could have a sensitive reader grinding teeth and wishing him to just get the fuck on with everything. For the story itself is a reflective essay on how our friend Gabriel gets to where he's going (not a good place) written by Gabriel in the form of a somewhat rambling diary entry over several days / weeks etc, and as such I found myself at times hoping for more dynamic forward motion.

And yet, if I were to ignore the unpolished literary devices and examine instead the ideas of Gabriel Jones as expressed through the medium of Penguin paperbacks, then I could argue that in fact Hope does indeed deserve acclaim for a level of intellectual rigour that is often lacking in mass market fiction.

Pornography is examined with the critical eye of the self-aware consumer. Were I a practicing Buddhist I might reference Thich Nhat Hanh's rather accessible book entitled Fidelity for his explanation of the nature of the Sensual Net that entraps those who seek love in the wrong form, but frankly I've not finished it yet and so don't have a complete understanding and might risk therefore confusing and / or irking people who have and do. Suffice to say that Hanh's advisory role (in my mind) is taken up by a literate and compassionate friend, Daniel, with whom Gabriel talks, drinks, and gets stoned, whilst gently denigrating his sensitivities to the crushing inertia of modern living. 
Duncan understands the allure and the risk of pornography in muddying the waters of the mind, the internecine effect on those in a relationship. Gabriel is a porn addict and it destroys the relationship he believes was 'the one'. The irony here is that of course, Gabriel destroys his relationship by being a dick with a brain, and any projection of blame onto an opt-in medium in which he chooses to participate is just that - projection.

Glen Duncan being Glen Duncan here, it doesn't stop at that. Oh no. Pornography is just the gateway to the big bad world of sexual gratification with no emotional return, and Hope, eponymous character, quickly becomes his surrogate partner in a fictional fantasized relationship. Hope, of course, is a high-class prostitute (oxy-moron duly acknowledged) on whom Gabriel spends his rapidly diminishing funds. Cue twist hinted at all through the novel, and we're set for the finish. Now you can go back and read the quote at the start and understand why I included it there.

Having come at Hope (no pun intended) with I, Lucifer, Death of an Ordinary Man, Weathercock and A Day and a Night and a Day already under the belt, I am happy to overlook the newbie errors, the clumsy devices and so forth that Duncan evidently gets under control later in his work, and so I am left once again deeply impressed by this novel, and by Duncan in general. If you read one out-of-print novel this week, make it this one, and then come back here and tell me if I'm wrong about it. In a past life, I was all about "Read More Vonnegut!" but I am slowly becoming an outspoken Duncanophile. The end.

Sorry, I couldn't think of a suitably serious pun without coming over all child-like. You know what, I think that was a Newman & Baddiel line right there...


How's about that then?

Metaliterature - what meaning to have is this for meaning?

Not a review this time, more of a curiosity. It seems I'm receiving lots of hits from Russia (Здравствуйте России!) from people searching for the definition of "metaliterature". As such, it is something of a bespoke word, created to fit a need and probably not yet recognized outside literary theory / criticism circles (Merriam-Webster Online certainly don't like it). I was wondering what they typed in to end up here, so, for fun (it's not fun, sorry) I thought I'd bung it in Google Translate and see what came out. As it turns out, one needs a little hyphen for the rather ponderous machine to understand it, and even then only does half the job (meta seems to be meta in any language). 
Incidentally, below is, ironically, a Google Chrome Thesaurus definition* of "meta":

met·a Adjective/ˈmetə/
(of a creative work) Referring to itself or to the conventions of its genre; self-referentialInterestingly (not interesting, sorry) it says this for the full term, t…

Under The Dust by Jordi Coca

So, wheel of fortune, count to 29, pin the tail, freebies off of peeps on Twitter etc. etc. Whatever the methods sometimes employed to pick the next book in my intertextual experience, the one that brought me to Jordi Coca brought me to a whopping great slice of nostalgia. Before I'd even opened it, it brought to mind Richard Gwyn, himself a published poet, author, biographer, translator and course director of the MA Creative Writing course at Cardiff University, who I recall for some odd reason gently encouraging me to read this novel, and by whose own work I was quietly impressed at the time. He was also an advocate of Roberto Bolaño, another writer in whose work I can immerse myself but from which I emerge drained, as mentioned previously. Before that, though, there is this sticker on the front, declaring 'Signed by the Author at Waterstone's'. It is indeed signed by Jordi Coca, not adding any particular intrinsic value to the book, not for me anyway, but more impor…

Hereward: The Last Englishman by Peter Rex

By all accounts, Hereward was the guerrilla scourge of the invading Norman armies in eleventh century Cambridgeshire and Norfolk, famous for isolating and dismembering members of the Norman nobility who strayed too far from home, and also for trashing Peterborough and hiding on an island. Called variously (and often erroneously) The Wake, The Exile or The Outlaw, his infamy was such that families in search of noble English lineage have usurped his "heroism" for their own glory even until this very day. Rex delights in highlighting one author's particular folly, entitled Hereward, The Saxon Patriot, in which Lieutenant-General Harward attempts to run his antecedents right back to the loins of the eponymous gentleman-rogue. 

Having only read the introduction to Peter Rex's myth-busting (and often ill-edited) work, I was already struck by an initial thought which ran thus: if as Rex asserts Hereward was the son of Asketil Tokison, a descendant of a wealthy Danish family …

A Death In The Family: My Struggle Volume 1 by Karl Ove Knausgaard

I sit here, wearing my limited edition Knausgaard t-shirt, immensely grateful to the kind people at Vintage Books for their surprising gift of the first four novels (and aforementioned t-shirt) simply as a result of being able to post a comment on their YouTube Vlog. There may have been a hidden agenda, considering I'm a book blogger (What, interrobang, a book blogger, interrobang and so on...) but I prefer to believe they picked me at random. Because I'm ace. 
Nonetheless, I had no idea what to expect of these books. I did do a little reading, and found lots of very interesting articles about Karl Ove Knausgaard, including this entertaining one in the Wall Street Journal. But in all honesty, nothing prepared me for reading them, and I can see why they cause controversy and consternation wherever they are translated (which is pretty much everywhere).
First off, being intelligent and perspicacious readers as I trust you all to be, you will no doubt have spotted the whole Godwin&#…