Books: Call That Variety? It's as Flat as a Cap ; Fiction; the North of England Home Service by Gordon Burn FABER Pounds 16.99 Pounds 14.99 (+ Pounds 2.25 P&P PER ORDER) 0870 800 1122
Tague, John, The Independent on Sunday (London, England)
The writing career of Gordon Burn has, thus far, possessed something of the Midas touch. Alma Cogan, his debut novel, was praised extravagantly, sold well, and secured the Whitbread First Novel award. His non-fiction, too, notably Somebody's Husband, Somebody's Son (on the Yorkshire Ripper) and Happy Like Murderers (on Fred and Rose West), have both met with considerable commercial success and critical acclaim. With The North of England Home Service, his third novel, Burn attempts to examine the legacy of post- industrialisation and the subsequent rise of the "leisure" society. It's an ambitious attempt to come to terms with the fall- out of the most fundamental economic and social upheavals that have affected the country during the past 20 years, which, alas, he totally fails to illuminate.
The novel features two protagonists: Ray Cruddas, a washed-up working- class comedian of the old school who sold out to the Tories and now, in the twilight of his career, has been forced to return to his north-eastern hometown to run a grim variety club that has more than a few shades of Peter Kay's Phoenix Nights about it; and his sidekick and general dogsbody Jackie Mabe. The more successful aspects of the novel deal with Jackie and, in flashback, his past career as a boxer and habitue of the seedy London demi-monde of the late 1950s. But the novel comes unstuck in two major departments. While Burn can handle the London nightlife of the 1950s well, it's obvious that he has no real empathy for the setting and the people - the northern working class - that Ray and Jackie now move among. They are described in the clumsiest of broad strokes: the men in a cafe, Ray reflects in the opening chapter, are products of "the old industries - the heavy industries - that had created the character and culture of that part of the world", yet, beyond a few …
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Publication information: Article title: Books: Call That Variety? It's as Flat as a Cap ; Fiction; the North of England Home Service by Gordon Burn FABER Pounds 16.99 Pounds 14.99 (+ Pounds 2.25 P&P PER ORDER) 0870 800 1122. Contributors: Tague, John - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent on Sunday (London, England). Publication date: May 18, 2003. Page number: 17. © 2009 The Independent on Sunday. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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