Send it to another place.

Send it to another place.

“When you knock a bowl of sugar on to your host’s carpet, it is a parody of the avalanche that killed his mother and father, just as the duck’s beak that your new girlfriend’s lips form when she attempts a seductive pout is a quotation of the quacking noise your last girlfriend made during sex.”

It’s been a while, so if you have no other form of entertainment than this blog and have noticed I’ve been missing, you may be wondering where I’ve been. In the real world, I have been pony trekking in Somerset (just don’t ask) but in the literary world, I’ve been in 1930s Berlin and latterly Los Angeles, struggling with a dense novel. So here we go, with Ned Beauman’s second novel.

Boxer, Beetle was Beauman’s debut novel and I confess that it is one that entirely bypassed me, and I don’t know anything about it. Neither, as you’ll soon learn, do I much care to. I’m getting ahead of myself, because I don’t want to insult the book, so let’s cover the premise and then move on to critique.

In Berlin in the early 1930s, Egon Loeser, a set designer in the theatre, is struggling a contraption called a teleportation device that will move actors from one side of the stage to the other in a heartbeat, and also with a complete lack of sex. It hasn’t helped that his ex-girlfriend has just hooked up with someone else and he has just met Adele Hitler (no relation) and immediately fallen in love with her. Unfortunately, so has everyone else. Avoiding all other sexual interaction until he can have Adele, Loeser begins to slowly lose his mind and when he hears that she has left Berlin, he goes after her, following her to Paris and then Los Angeles. In America, however, he discovers that due to the events going on in Germany now under the charismatic new chancellor, almost everyone he knew has also one by one upped sticks and moved half a world away.

In Los Angeles, he continues seeking out Adele but gets mixed up with his favourite author Stent Mutton, and some scientists at CalTech who, among other strange and secret projects, are working on a teleportation device, only this one has grander applications than the theatre, if only Professor Bailey and his assistant can solve the riddle of how to make it work.

When it comes to the actual writing, Beauman is near enough a genius. He is funny, clever and good with words and I can’t take any of that away from him. When he describes a posh house as being somewhere Loeser feels that at all times he is being watched by either a live horse or a dead stag, that conjures up such vivid imagery about the kind of house we can all picture. However, it’s a dense book. It isn’t hugely long, but Beauman is a fan of the long-winded paragraph giving the book a somewhat daunting density that is hard for a reader to maintain for long. The characters, while not exactly wooden, do not appeal particularly in any way. By the time I got to the last second twist (and, objectively, it is quite a good one), I had long stopped caring. It appears to have been recieved favourably, however, having even been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. But it reads exactly like a book longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, almost as if there was a space open on the list and the book was written especially for the role. Take that how you will.

It’s clever, but it knows it. It’s funny, but with a nod and a wink towards the audience. It’s not that I didn’t like it, but I also didn’t like it enough. I just have absolutely no strong feelings about this book either way. It filled up nine days of my life which was about five too many, and I will forever equate it with the burning in my thighs after an afternoon on a horse.

I did look up Boxer, Beetle briefly and found a review on Amazon from user ThugEarwig that said of it, “I strongly suspect it was written in a coffee shop. On a Mac.” This is exactly the feeling that I have about this book too, so thank you for that Mr Earwig. More succintly and intelligently put than I could ever manage.

If you’re interested in reading more of my work, please download my debut novel The Atomic Blood-stained Bus from Amazon, iTunes or any other ebook retailer.

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