Magazine article The Spectator

Two Halves Don't Make a Whole

Magazine article The Spectator

Two Halves Don't Make a Whole

Article excerpt

Two halves don't make a whole MANTRAPPED by Fay Weldon Fourth Estate, £16.99, pp. 267, ISBN 0007194536 £14.99 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848

What on earth is a 'high concept novel"? For the expression to have any meaning you'd have to have a low concept novel, a medium concept novel and even a no concept novel. How high? Compared to? It doesn't make sense.

Nonetheless this is one. (In fairness to Fay Weldon she does not say so; the blurb writer docs.) From the evidence I can only deduce that 'high concept' means 'bit of a mish-mash'. Mantrapped is half of a novel and half of an autobiography plus author's commentary on writing the (half) novel. The idea is that in our celebrity culture there can no longer be a 'hidden' author. Publicity, profiles, photographs, reviewers' personal speculations and gossip all do their bit to ferret out the author's 'real' self - so in all honesty the author herself needs to come clean and tell all.

In one sense it is true of course. 'Confessional' writing is extremely fashionable at the moment and imaginative literature is not. Fiction has somehow failed its readers (or vice versa) and we crave something that passes as truth. We seem to have lost the knack of reading the bigger picture from the narrative's specific particulars. It is a serious cultural loss too, but I am not convinced by Mantrapped that the solution is to insert chunks of soi-disant 'truth' into a fiction of flamboyant invention.

The basis of the plot for the novel half is rather fun: a man and a woman cross on a flight of stairs (traditionally unlucky) and their souls swap bodies. …

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