New Fiction

By Mosley, Charlotte | Daily Mail (London), October 11, 2002 | Go to article overview

New Fiction


Mosley, Charlotte, Daily Mail (London)


Byline: CHARLOTTE MOSLEY

The Bat Tattoo by Russell Hoban (Bloomsbury, pound sterling15.99) ROSWELL CLARK is the inventor of Mnemoplast, a type of plastic with a memory, which he commercialises as Crash Test, a toy car and driver that spring back into shape after a collision. Roswell is going through a midlife crisis and decides to get his first tattoo. He chooses a bat - symbol of happiness - copied from an 18th-century Chinese bowl in the V&A.

On the steps of the museum, he meets Sarah Varley, an antiques dealer who has the same bat tattooed on her arm. Sarah was married to Giles, a man who had everything except the knack of succeeding; she is doing her best to overcome her attraction to failures and resist the desire to improve them.

Roswell and Sarah continue to bump into each other and an offbeat relationship develops.

Adelbert Delarue, a rich Parisian patron of the arts, commissions Roswell to make some unusual articulated toys: a male and female, a gorilla and a mastiff - crash-test dummies that are anatomically complete, including working genitalia.

Through art, Christianity, pornography and human relationships, Hoban's three characters are in search of a meaning to life and a system to believe.

Neither science fiction nor fantasy but with elements of both, Hoban's 11th novel is weird, humorous, playful and very enjoyable.

Indelible Acts by A. L. Kennedy (Jonathan Cape, pound sterling12.99) ELEVEN years after Kennedy's (pictured) first book of short stories, the characters in her fourth collection are still on an agonising search for love, with as scant success as ever.

Unable to connect except on a physical level, the most they can do is share a substitute for love: sympathy or comfort at best, the power to hurt or destroy each other at worst.

In Spared, an adulterous affair fulfils - surpasses even - Greg's fantasies, but far from making him happy the relationship triggers a fear of extinction, a feeling that he is on the edge of an abyss.

Not Anything To Do With Love explores a woman's feelings as - against her better judgment - she attends a cremation where she knows she will see her ex-lover: 'Why should I stop hurting him when he won't stop hurting me? …

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