Novelist Guy Ableman is in thrall to his vivacious wife Vanessa, a strikingly beautiful red-head, contrary, highly strung and blazingly angry. The trouble is, he is no less in thrall to her alluring mother, Poppy. More like sisters than mother and daughter, they come as a pair, a blistering presence that destroys Guy’s peace of mind, suggesting the wildest stories but making it impossible for him to concentrate long enough to write any of them. Not that anyone reads Guy anyway. Not that anyone is reading anything. Reading, Guy fears, is finished. His publisher, fearing the same, has committed suicide. His agent, like all agents, is in hiding. Vanessa, in the meantime, is writing a novel of her own. Guy doesn’t expect her to finish it, or even start it, but he dreads the consequences if she does. In flight from personal disappointment and universal despair, Guy wonders if it’s time to take his love for Poppy to another level. Fiction might be dead, but desire isn’t. And out of that desire he imagines squeezing one more great book. By turns angry, elegiac, and rude, Zoo Time is a novel about love-love of women, love of literature, love of laughter. It shows our funniest writer at his brilliant best.
About Howard Jacobson
An award-winning writer and broadcaster, Howard Jacobson is the acclaimed author of The Mighty Walzer (winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize), Kalooki Nights (longlisted for the Man Booker Prize), No More Mr. Nice Guy, The Act of Love, and, most recently, the Man Booker Prize-winning The Finkler Question. He lives in London.
These days, grumbles Guy Ableman, “one has to apologize for having read a book, let alone for having written one.” That’s bad for old Guy, who’s a reader and a writer, the author of smart literary fictions of very modest success who suddenly realizes that his bookish world is crumbling around him. It doesn’t help that his agent commits suicide rather than negotiate yet another e-book deal or that his wife, voluptuous and wonderful, has decided that she’s going to write something of her own, or that his wife’s mother is sending decidedly un-mother-in-law-like vibes his way: Guy is in a bad existential state, and the world of publishing is going down the tubes with him. The obvious solution? Why, to craft an irresistible best-seller, a dumb and juicy confection that twists all the right knobs. It’s a lovely setup, one that affords Jacobson, never shy about skewering modern mores, plenty of opportunities to lampoon modern trends in the litbiz. He gets in digs at just about everything, in fact; for instance, we learn, courtesy of Guy, that novels about single fatherhood sell well in Canada “because Canadian women were so bored with their husbands that the majority of them ran off sooner or later with an American or an Inuit.” So fast and furious are the jibes that one wonders if Jacobson will have anything left to lampoon, but of course, the world has a way of providing targets for the careful satirist, and he’s an ascended master. His latest is more fun than Lucky Jim, and if some of its tropes are more ephemeral, Jacobson is willing to take some big risks in the service of art, as when Guy muses of one of his confections, “I had to cheat a bit to get the Holocaust in, but a dream sequence will always make a chump of chronology.” – Kirkus Reviews
Comic Struggles Of A Frustrated Writer In ‘Zoo Time’
NPR Book Review – October 23, 2012 (Excerpt)
“My aim,” writes English novelist Guy Ableman to his agent, “is to write a transgressive novel that explores the limits of the morally permissible in our times.”
Sounds quite serious, even brow-wrinkling, doesn’t it? A dangerous act of experimental writing, perhaps something Norman Mailer might have tried, or Henry Miller before him?
Except that Ableman — the narrator of Howard Jacobson’s odd new work of fiction — sees the joke in it. “Who are the great blasphemers of our age?” he asks. “Not poets and writers … My hero is a stand-up comedian. First line of novel, he walks on stage, says, Take my mother-in-law — I just have …”
Revising a bit of stand-up schtick by the great American comic Henny Youngman may not be the classiest aesthetic value in the world. But it gives us a sense of the narrator’s deep desperation about his vocation, his career, his very life in an England, in which, as he sees it, literature is dying off faster than the Arctic iceberg melt. [Read the full article...]
‘Zoo Time,’ by Howard Jacobson
The Washington Post Book Review – November 22, 2012 (Excerpt)
There used to be a composer — there still is, come to think of it — who delighted in playing one note. La Monte Young wrote brass pieces where tuba players almost passed out blowing far longer than a set of human lungs could manage, or he and his wife would sing one note until they got tired of it. But he branched out with other instruments, too: He threw gravel against the side of a garage, and one storied afternoon at a private concert, he brushed a string bean against a pane of glass until a member of the audience leapt from his chair and cried out, “All right, La Monte, you win.”
Causing agony was exactly what La Monte wished for, of course. To him it was high art, and reading Howard Jacobson’s novel “Zoo Story,” I thought the narrator, Guy Ableman, subscribed to much the same philosophy: “I was a novelist,” he tells us. “I didn’t want an explanation, I wanted a spiralling narrative of uncertainty, nothing ever known for sure, the story going on for ever. . . . A mystery capable of being solved isn’t what I call a mystery.” [Read the full article...]
Ableman Unbound - ‘Zoo Time,’ by Howard Jacobson
The New York Times Book Review – January 11, 2013 (Excerpt)
Words are everything to Guy Ableman, a novelist for whom prose celebrates “our lower instincts” and is therefore greater than poetry. His subject is sex (a giddy reviewer praises one of his novels as “a verbal spermfest”), and when he’s not actually writing he’s preparing to, by “mouth-writing” on solitary London walks. Despite being an accomplished and celebrated writer with a beautiful wife and an equally beautiful mother-in-law, he is deeply unhappy. Why? Because Guy Ableman has been born into a postliterate age.
How postliterate is it? Bookstores are going under. Those remaining are not displaying Guy’s books, which have been elbowed aside by child vampires. Agents are heading for high ground. Ableman’s publisher has shot himself after one last liquid literary lunch. Ernest Hemingway, reincarnated as a homeless lunatic forever scribbling in notebooks, drops dead in the street. Everybody who’s nobody is blogging. Things look bleak for serious writers. This is because, according to Ableman, there are no serious readers. The books that sell are vapid crowd-pleasers, and anyway, most people are off to the movies or worse. “Comedians had taken over. . . . They saw as novelists saw, they enjoyed the rhythm of the language, they deployed exaggeration and bathos as we did. . . . They had a slavish following.” [Read the full article...]
The Vertical Land – Book Two of the Richard Finch Series
A Gay Erotic Thriller by Max Markham
1982, London: James Graveney (now a Lieutenant-Colonel) and Richard Finch (now promoted to Captain), the heroes of Book One of the Richard Finch Series, The Indigo Bird, have both had a “good war” in the Falklands, serving respectively with the Fusiliers and the Special Air Service (SAS). So has James’s dynamic wife, Tori, a researcher, who was also caught up in the war. Now they all have to come back to earth with a bump. James is a Lieutenant-Colonel without a command; Richard’s attachment to the SAS has come to an end.
Fate comes to their rescue. James is unexpectedly posted to Nairobi as Military Attaché to the amiable British High Commissioner, Sir Tom Sheridan. A bloody coup in August 1982 ensures that no-one but Richard wants the job of James’s Assistant Military Attaché. James may be married and outwardly respectable; Richard may be professionally ambitious, but it is not long before the two friends are caught up in a series of adventures – amorous, erotic and positively dangerous – in Kenya and Sudan.
Once more Max Markham provides a rollercoaster of shocks and surprises against backdrops ranging from sophisticated London to raffish Nairobi, to mercilessly beautiful and dangerous remote, up-country Africa.
We are the only country that makes guns, including military-style assault weapons, available to anyone who wants to buy them. This is not freedom. It is a tyranny of death and destruction — a tyranny of which the National Rifle Association is proud. The Washington Post
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