Magazine article The Spectator

Axes and Teeth Being Ground

Magazine article The Spectator

Axes and Teeth Being Ground

Article excerpt

At last! At last! For six months now the literary world has tremulously awaited Amanda Craig's third novel, a `satire of literary London' supposedly so savage that even before publication libel writs were flying and publishers bolting. The newspapers have been full of it.

I am proud to boast that I knew Miss Craig as a schoolgirl. She was quite frightening then, with her first novel certainly planned, if not written. She seemed the last person who would turn rebel and set about trashing the literary establishment.

But readers hoping for a gossipy comedy of manners with identifiable figures lampooned by the dozen will be disappointed. The solipsistic attention given by the media to the parts of Miss Craig's book which are about itself proves that to some extent her accusations against it are justified. For A Vicious Circle is actually a baggy soapopera about the state of contemporary London and by implication modern Britain. Miss Craig sees a country rapidly returning to a 19th-century condition of brutal class division, dirt, bad air and disease. The literary people are in the book to represent the haves, the malicious, self-engrossed monsters who think the world ends at the doors of the Soho club where they congregate. These people are the sort who would doctor a colleague's expenses' claim in order to get that person sacked, or who, when they've managed to replace a long-term girlfriend with someone better connected and richer, put all the old one's things outside the door in black plastic bags. The other characters are the complete opposite: a single mum, tough, loving, intelligent, struggling to bring up her son on a council estate in Camden or Dr Tom Viner, motivated by caritas, serving the poor in the casualty wards of London's hospitals.

The recession of the Eighties throws a lurid Gotterdimmerung light as the fortunes of a large gallery of characters rise and fall. Nice Mary Quinn is lured into the snakepit of literary journalism where malice takes her over to the extent that she betrays her best friend, the struggling novelist, Adam Sands. Rich bitch Amelia is redeemed by suffering (pregnancy and a horrible husband) and poverty (well, 70,000 a year). Miss Craig provides enough sensational turns of plot (an entire trust fund embezzled, a death from Aids, a flat burnt down, a Robert-Maxwell-style death) combined with easily intelligible passages of description on clearly defined topics to keep the interest up. I couldn't put the book down, although for much of the time it reduced me to a state of hysterical misery. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.