Magazine article The Spectator

Camping at a High Altitude

Magazine article The Spectator

Camping at a High Altitude

Article excerpt

Camping at a high altitude Katie Grant SMILE PLEASE by Jonathan Keates Chatto, 15.99, pp. 330

Aa novel written by a straight man, Smile Please would constitute a feat of extraordinarily acute observation directed at the self-obsessed, narcissistic world of the affluent, intellectual, gay thirtysomething in search of true love. But if this is a novel written by a gay man, the book is an enjoyable self-indulgence which will, especially as it dwells lovingly on physical detail, doubtless be a popular addition to the carefully arranged bookshelves of gay, arty households in north London. Certain pages will become rather dog-eared.

Moreover, heterosexual households too, especially those who want to show themselves to be thoroughly cool, will be able to leave the book in the spare bedroom. For when it eventually does manage to come alive, readers will find in Smile Please a gentle camp comedy of modern manners that minces along in a perfectly unobjectionable, even whimsical fashion, with tableaux of homoerotic sex in carefully chosen settings strategically placed to keep up the interest if you like that sort of thing. The book is easy to pick up, easy to put down, although I was careful not to put it down where the children could pick it up, not wanting them to read about 'gorging' or 'clusterfucks' just yet. But if they should care, as adults, to learn about these things, Smile Please might not be a bad guide.

Keates's characters are sweet rather than memorable. They are all searching for their true selves, mostly up their own backsides. Jeremy, Adam and Basil have adapted themselves to the millennial world of glossy New Labour modernity by answering to 'Jezza', 'Adsy' and 'Baz', working for foundations offering money to struggling dancers or being themselves struggling authors. The women, Daisy and Alice, come straight from Joanna Trollope while Serena reminded me of Jennifer Aldridge. …

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