SONG OF THE SUBURBS by Simon Skinner


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An in-your-face chronicle of life on the road in present-day Britain, by a first-time author whose primary ambition seems to be the re-creation of every sexual encounter his narrator’s had since childhood. If you thought that Bret Easton Ellis was a strictly American phenomenon, get ready: the same drugged suburban zombies that people Ellis’s work have now migrated across the Atlantic, if Slim Manti is any guide. The son of rootless and vaguely well-to-do people, Slim grew up in the Home Counties around London but is equally at ease in the South of France or the US. The first half of his story is devoted almost exclusively to descriptions of the many women he’s shagged—with helpful chapter titles, such as “Rape Girl,” “German Girl,” and “Rich Girl.” Then he becomes more focused, after a fashion, and begins to describe his summer holidays (“Letter to America”), family arguments (“Home Truths”), and jobs (“Factory”). Written entirely as a sequence of short episodic flashbacks, narrator Slim relies on sharp opening lines (“In winter I devised a way of crucifying people with scarves”) and quick shifts of scene and perspective to create a picture of contemporary nihilism and boredom, in which no one really knows what he’s about—Slim least of all—or where he’s headed. Although the touch is light enough to ward off any scent of pomposity, the ennui that the characters seem to be sousing themselves in (—In Paris it was too expensive for us to do much, just got some wine in and kept everyone awake in the dorm”) eventually seeps through the pages to such a degree that most readers will find themselves overcome as well. If you want to get into the Gen-X scene in Cool Britannia, this will be your cup of tea. Anyone who grew up before MTV, however, would be better off sticking to Jane Austen.

Pub Date: Oct. 12th, 1998
ISBN: 1-899344-37-3
Page count: 148pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1998