Shirley Dent has little sympathy for Adam Thirlwell's Politics
Where do I start? Is it unfair to say that I loathed this book from the first page? That even when Thirlwell's quite acute ear for dialogue was persuading me to think again, his ignorant, patronizing, ingratiatingly charmless narrator would came up with a platitude of such astounding stupidity, I would feel like slamming the book shut again? No, it is not unfair because it is true.POLITICS
First page irritations? Let's start with the second sentence. I don't need to be told, thank you very much, that I will like the characters of this book. I can make my own mind up. And I am not interested in the boring kinky sex of some boring middlebrow twentysomethings (and really kinky sex doesn't have to keep telling you that it is so).
And doesn't Thirlwell just keep telling you. He tells us this book is not really about politics but about ickle Nana, ickle Moshe and ickle Anjali having a ickle ménage a trois. But he's lying. What he is really trying to say is "I'm just an ickle bitsy writer me, just an ordinary geezer, down Brick Lane in the Bagel shop, cutting the rug at the 333 in Hoxton Square. But ps: I also think really profound thoughts and I have lots of interesting things to say about the world". This is the Jamie Oliver mockney approach to intellectualism and politics: "I'm just like you, treacle (but shut up and listen while I tell you my theory of the world)". This is so obvious and so barefaced and it is the chief irritation of the book. Names are dropped at every available opportunity, encompassing everyone from Bulgakov to Breton. And the crassest explanations are attached for the plebs benefit. I had worked out that André Breton was a surrealist some time ago, cheers mate. Why do you feel you have to tell me that Breton is a surrealist?
This is what I think is truly worrying about this book. Thirlwell was placed on Granta's best novelists under 40 list, a fact made much of by the book's publicist. And all I can say to that is this: is this really it? This is the best we can do, the best we can say? The writing has its moments (few and far between), but you just know why people are lathering themselves up about Thirlwell. He is a fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, and you can just hear the commissioning editors meeting: "Yeah, like he's soooooooo intelligent. Just so intelligent. He does ideas and things. We just have to have him". Are we really so bereft of ideas that we can be fooled by something as threadbare as this?
It's not intelligent. It is not about politics in the macro or microsense. It is about Thirlwell thinking that a random pot of namedropped intellectuals and halfcocked philosophical musings make for an incisive comment on the way we live now. It doesn't.
Politics is available from Amazon (UK)