A savage, funny story that made last year’s Booker Prize shortlist, and the ninth novel for the hugely talented Parks (Shear, 1994, etc.), long a teacher of English in Italy. This features the magnificently jumbled thoughts of an alter ego who, traumatized by the love of his life gone wrong, pleads his embattled colleagues’ case before members of the European Parliament. Jerry Marlow loved her so much that he had left his wife and daughter, rediscovered his training in the classics and, a couple of years after the affair soured, can’t bring himself to utter her name—even though she’s a lector in foreign languages, like him, and like him on board the bus (with other teachers) from Milan to the EP in Strasbourg to protest their collective treatment by an Italian bureaucracy now denying them, as non-Italians, job security. The trip has been conceived and tirelessly promoted by the Welsh-Indian Vikram Griffiths, a hard-drinking womanizer with two failed marriages and a massive inferiority complex. While he nicknames the bus of teachers and sympathetic female students “The Shag Wagon” (and wastes no time in putting the moves on anyone in reach), Jerry stews in his memories of things past, when his beloved took up with another colleague even as she professed undying love for him. Lost in his misery, he unwittingly has himself elected the group’s spokesman to the committee of Parliament they’re about to meet. This duty mixes badly with his seething emotions, but he rises to the occasion—only to be upstaged by Vikram hanging himself in the parliamentary toilet. From crisis, however, Jerry gains resolve and gets on with his life. A tale as lusty as it is outlandish. The obsessiveness of the male mind has rarely been so well rendered since a certain Bloom gave himself over to thoughts of Molly.