Magazine article The Spectator

Boringly, Glaringly Obvious

Magazine article The Spectator

Boringly, Glaringly Obvious

Article excerpt


by Julie Burchill

Orion, 9.99, pp. 192

Love her or hate her ', they say about Julie Burchill, `you can't ignore her.' Which is patently untrue, since I've successfully ignored her for years. I mean I know who she is. I've dipped into her columns and thought `Mm, nice turn of phrase' or `How contrary!' I've envied her ability to toss off 2,000 words about nothing and get paid a fortune for it. I've glimpsed her at a party and been surprised by her shy demeanour and small, squeaky voice. And I've often wished I could write a novel as successful as Ambition.

What I've never done, though, is soar to heights of ecstasy as I tripped through her matchless prose, nor come to the conclusion, as many of the punk generation have, that she's the finest style joumo of the age. Nor yet has she reduced me to a foaming rage and made me want to scream, as others do, `The evil bitch must die!' At least not until recently, when I suffered the misfortune of being asked to review Married Alive.

I suppose I should have been warned by the title. `Married Alive!' it shrieks. `Geddit? You know. Like buried alive! Living death!! Cos, like, men!!! Per-lease. Who needs 'em??? Can't live with them! Can't live with them!!!' Which is precisely what Burchill goes on to reiterate, with her characteristic road-accident subtlety, over the ensuing ineffably tedious 191 pages.

Actually, I'm being unfair. I failed to mention that there's an even more tedious main plot in which the book's thirtysomething-working-class-Bristolian-girl-madegood-in-the-media decides to rescue her frightful hag of a grandmother from an old people's home and install her in her chic Docklands apartment.

Apparently, Burchill has already savaged one reviewer who had the temerity to point out the novel's strongly autobiographical element. `How can it be me?' ran Burchill's defence. `I'm not a graphic artist and I've never lived in Docklands.' Which seems to me a gallingly disingenuous line to take. Even if one were to discount the numerous glaring similarities between author and heroine, I find it impossible to believe that Nicole's views, mode of thinking or life philosophy could belong to any woman on earth save Julie Burchill.

Only a professional contrarian with a mawkishly idealistic attachment to her proletarian West Country heritage could ever conceive of bringing, on an idle whim, a toothless, farting old crone whom she hasn't seen for years to live in a spiffy London apartment designed to house, at most, one couple. …

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