Young poet loses girlfriend, falls to pieces, discovers things about himself and family, realizes happiness, credits roll.
Londoner Keeble’s debut would seem, on the surface, to have the requisite material for at least middling success, but the truth is much duller than one might imagine. The main character here, Scott Barron, is a successful twentysomething poet (a rare breed, indeed) who is blessed not only with monetary reward and critical acclaim, but with a stunning model-type for a girlfriend and a pudgy brother, Jes, whom he can always feel superior to. Just after the release party for his newest volume of humorous but meaningful ditties about men (yes, the few examples we read are as horrible as one would think), his girlfriend leaves him, everything starts to fall apart, and Scott realizes that his “friends” are really not friends at all. A few cappers on Scott’s depression include his humiliating himself on BBC-TV (those pre-reading whiskeys and egg sandwiches not being a good mix), the sudden death of his loving but distant mother, and the reappearance of his father—who deserted the family many years ago. One can almost feel the schematic outlines of the book getting filled in: romantic defeat, moment of self-deprecating humor, family surprise, and, of course, ridiculous and funny incident in which our hero goes too far. The ridiculous and funny incident involves Scott’s kidnapping a penguin from the zoo, something that’s meant to be very over-the-top and uproariously hilarious, but, like the rest of the book, falls flat. Even leaning on such tried-and-true conventions lifted from the Nick Hornby/Helen Fielding school of writing, Keeble has trouble pulling off meaningful stretches of dialogue or conjuring up even one character who can not only seem passably real but remotely interesting.