CUTS by Malcolm Bradbury


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Bradbury, author of British academic satire of the highest order (Eating People is Wrong, Stepping Westward, Rates of Exchange), now turns his jaundiced gaze in the direction of England's ambitious television industry--in a mini-farce (an entry in Harper's Short Novel Series) that's reliably witty, if too broad to score many points or generate much involvement. Set in 1986, as the Thatcher government makes ruthless cuts at every level, the novella features the hapless strivings of provincial Eldorado Television, headed by amusingly vicious and peremptory Lord Mellow--who yearns to hit it big with an epic in the Jewel in the Crown manner, one that will star old actor-knight Sir Luke Trimble. Alas, Sir Luke has rejected the jazzy, shocking script for a Gladstone docudrama. (""I am neither a flasher nor a song and dance man. I think you have me confused with Sir Laurence."") So the desperate Eldorado team recruits obscure avant-garde novelist Henry Babbacome to write something in 13 episodes, with foreign locations, and a great deathbed scene for Sir Luke. And, while Henry muses (he ""was not sure if he wanted to make it a story with people in it""), the scriptless production goes full steam ahead in ludicrously arbitrary fashion--sabotaged along the way by a bonkers leading-lady, Sir Luke's very real demise, and off-screen sexual shenanigans (innocent Henry is seduced and abandoned). More cartoonish than most Bradbury comedies, this doesn't sustain steady interest over even its brief (112 pp.) length. But the page-by-page pleasures are keen and varied--with super-droll dialogue and wicked send-ups of inept local, radio interviewers, Extra. Mural Studies (the ""Durex Chair of French Letters""), mini-series clichÉs, semiotics, and trendy media hype.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1987
Publisher: Harper & Row