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Slightly absurdist sex-and-chat comedy at a country house in Essex--which works fairly well as a loose, savage satire on the monstrous pettiness of British media types but rather less well as an identity crisis for its narrator. This is young John Berry, a semi-failed novelist who's staying at an absent friend's cottage, supposedly in order to settle down with a multi-volume biography of Herzen. But Berry, a somewhat shallow chap, finds that his interest is almost immediately aroused by the goings-on at the big house nearby--where enigmatic, rude tycoon William Pirates is amassing case upon case of fine wine in anticipation of the coming weekend: a gaggle of book/TV celebrities has been invited to take part in a super-chat dinner party that will be filmed for television. ""Good talkers, prime porkers!"" So Pirates calls them, and so they are: publisher Bagehot with wife Tina; publisher Cummings (who plans to recycle Jane Austen, updated); leftwing writer Blanche; political interviewer Teddy; artist-inventor Hole, with his pet robots; scabrous psychiatrist Petula; swinish poet Patrick and girlfriend Jill; plus an academia couple and a book reviewer. They assemble on the lawns, engage in bitchy repartee, nonstop eating/drinking, practical jokes, and pairing-off: Patrick with Blanche, our hero with aggressive Tina and then lovely Jill. And by the night of the big dinner-filming, Berry has become ""much less of a prig, much more of a shit""--so he's not all that surprised when host Pirates (an unpublished poet) tries to exterminate all in a fire. May, Literary Editor of The Listener, knows his targets, and though some references may be lost on US readers, most of the comedy scores; the ""porkers"" are hilariously appalling one and all. Very little substance, then, but quite a few acid laughs for the literarily, Anglophilically inclined.

Pub Date: Feb. 15th, 1981
Publisher: Chatto & Windus--dist. by Merrimack (99 Main St., Salem, N.H. 03079)