Date: 19 November 2001
My flatmate catches me reading this and smirks. Not because itís a large format paperback of a Nick Hornby novel, because he thinks Iím good. Good Ben, thatís me. Monogamous Ben. Loyal Ben, kind Ben. Etc. But actually, this is not an instruction manual on how to be good. Itís more likely to make you want to be bad, from that point of view. It tries to address my self-image issues, but doesnít. Itís a book about a woman Ė nice one, Nick, extending your range there Ė struggling to reconcile being a bleeding heart liberal with not living happily ever after. Except the device by which this happens is not the breakdown of her marriage with an angry man and precocious kids (nor yet her fleeting and impact-less affair), but a contrived and curiously Will Self-like device by which a faith healer turns her husband from nasty to Awful Good, (and thereby from a mildly ridiculous character into an impossibly ridiculous one). She realises that sanctimony is just as bad as nastiness, and finds a Third Way Ė it is possible to live in Holloway, (the book has an obsession with this Postal District), have money and ignoble thoughts, and still feel Alright About Yourself. Oh, and it helps to Nourish your Irreducible Artistic (appreciative, not creative) Core. Yes, this book is New Labour to the bone. Should be called How to Be Middle Class. And I need no help with that one either, thanks.
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