A 40-year-old ne'er-do-well embarks on a series of comic encounters and adventures in this epic-sized picaresque.
The antihero here is Michael Cullen, the son of a famous novelist. His latest tentative dip into the pool of employment has ended with him losing his job at an advertising firm. Eventually, Cullen finds his way to doing strange jobs for his former employer, the shady Moggerhanger. The panoply of character bits that follow, from the sinister to the salacious, is meant to present us with—all together now—A Portrait of Life As It Is Lived Today. Author Sillitoe, who died in 2010, remains best known for his short story "The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner," (1959), which was made into a famous film starring Tom Courtenay and took its place in Britain's Angry Young Men literature of its era. This novel is the third volume of a trilogy, the first two volumes of which have not been published in America. A short precis at the beginning is meant to bring the reader who missed them up to date. But, really, we've all been here before. Cullen is the hero whose refusal to conform is presented as the sensible and heroic thing in a society beset by conformity, commercialism—stop reading anytime. It's the province of deservedly forgotten movies like Morgan! and novels that sounded amusing on the jacket copy but proved exhaustingly high-spirited the minute you try to get through them.
Reading this novel is like seeing an older man don that mod print shirt he's had for decades and never been able to part with. He should have known better.