A FINE EXCESS by Jane Ellison


Email this review


The title of this reed-thin English satirical novel refers to poetry, but poetry is the last thing on the minds of most of the minor literary figures who drink, jostle and connive their way through the novel's at times amusing but mostly creaky plot. The plot centers around a poetry contest sponsored by a tobacco company offering a 5000-pound prize for the best poem by an unknown poet. When the judges--Howard Antick, deaf, senile and determined to uphold poetic standards; Gavin Jarvis, jaunty, callow and determined to change them; and vague, boozy ""poetess"" Violet Glasspool--cannot agree on a winner, the tobacco-company PR man chooses two: one by struggling Eddie Rosemary, accountant by day, poet by night, and the other by mysterious ""J.W. Blanks,"" who, it turns out, is Violet Glasspool's once-famous ex-husband. Blanks--or Desmond Bysouth, as he's really called-has cooked up a scheme whereby, with a little help from Violet, he can collect not only this prize but every provincial poetry prize offered every year in England. The money will support their drinking habits. Meanwhile, however, Bysouth, swell-headed with the success of this first venture, begins to blackmail the tobacco PR man and to send ""ars poetica"" death threats to poor old Howard Antick. Eventually, all hell breaks loose--with the predictable result that the only serious poet in the group, Eddie Rosemary, gives up poetry forever. A tepid cup of tea.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1986
Publisher: Secker& Warburg--dist. by David & Charles