A ménage à trois in contemporary London.
The youngest author ever to be named one of Granta’s Best Young British Writers (the “20 Under 40” list), Thirwell (a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford) is an aspiring master of the vapid postmodern nihilism that is still the reigning literary fashion among academics on both sides of the Atlantic. He introduces us to three young Londoners who come together in an elliptical and polymorphic boy-meets-girl tale that bears more in common with Milan Kundera than Henry Miller, although it is a good deal more pretentious than both combined. Moshe, a young Jewish actor, meets Nana, a spoiled young suburbanite, at a performance of Oscar Wilde’s Vera; Moshe had a role in the play, while Nana was brought along by her father (who’s on the board of the theater). Nana also meets Anjali, an Indian actress and friend of Moshe’s, on the same evening. The rest is simple. Our omniscient narrator guides us through the development of the relations between the three friends (“The next event in the story is a blow job”), which are volatile, predictable, and nicely summed up in the chapter headings (“Romance,” “Intrigue,” “They fall in love,” “They fall out of love,” etc.), yet his abiding passions seem better expressed in a Tristram Shandy–ish series of digressions on subjects ranging from Bauhaus design to Mikhail Bulgakov and the sex lives of Adolph Hitler and Chairman Mao. These ramblings, it must be said, are more interesting than the depictions of Anjali fisting Nana or Moshe’s fantasies of shooting heroin with the Queen Mother, though they seem to have no point than as diversions from the story itself—which has very little point of its own.
Undergraduate ravings of this sort should be inflicted only on hapless editors or professors of creative writing.