One down, nine to go.
I’ve finished Ned Beauman’s “Boxer Beetle”, and I was surprised by how much I liked it. The main, present-day character is lumbered with a few too many unnecessarily unpleasant ailments (one of which does serve a plot point at the end of the book though), and its cartoon exuberance can grate after a while, but at least this is a debut by a young writer which centres on rather more than (in the words of my friend, the writer Martin MacInnes) hanging about clubs and feeling a bit sad. There are clearly large debts to Thomas Pynchon being paid in this book, not least in the wealth of information conveyed about abstruse subjects (Nazi memorabilia, entomology, trimethylaminuria, 1930s British fascism, boxing), and although he occasionally overreaches himself when trying to grasp a metaphor, Beauman writes a controlled and exact sentence. There’s an original mind at work here, figuring out the limits of its interests. I think his third or fourth novel is going to be outstanding.
Next on the list is “Things We Didn’t See Coming” by an American writer, Steve Amsterdam. Cool, precise, and lightly poetic where “Boxer Beetle” is cheerfully ebullient, Amsterdam’s novel looks like a pleasing contrast. Thoughts to follow, when finished.