Magazine article The Spectator

Goggling at the Box

Magazine article The Spectator

Goggling at the Box

Article excerpt

Goggling at the box CLEAR by Nicola Barker Fourth Estate, £14.99, pp. 346, ISBN 000719241X £12.99 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848

This far from flimsy novel has been written and published with remarkable speed. Little more than a year ago, on 5 September 2003, the American illusionist David Blaine entered his Perspex box beside the Thames, eventually to emerge after 44 days of starvation. His feat of heroism, madness or self-punishment (interpret it as you will) is the core of radium that provides Nicola Barker's work with its furious, dangerous and (one hopes) therapeutic energy.

The reception of Blaine's survival in, literally, an unremitting glare of publicity, eerily paralleled that of Princess Diana's death. The attitude of the press and the crowds that would now cheer him and wave to him and now at best show him the finger or at worst pelt him with eggs and tomatoes, alternated between deification and a diabolic malevolence. It is of these people, some transient visitors to the Thames-side site and others almost resident there, that Barker writes, when not writing of Blaine himself. So crude, so cruel, so crazy and so gross, is this is a true picture of English society today? If so, God help us.

Barker's narrator, Adair, is a clerk in an office within sight of the Perspex box. Like everyone on or near Tower Bridge he regards the whole circus as 'a bloody 24-hour party . . . a picture postcard suddenly come to life . . . a pure, fucking blast'. What has first drawn him to the spectacle is a desire to avenge the disappointment suffered by his father when a magician cheated him, a mere boy at the time, out of a promise of his wand. …

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.