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Barney Fugleman has two major preoccupations in life: sex and literature. He is obsessed by the life and work of a man hailed by many as a genius of the nineteenth century - and by Barney as a 'prurient little Victorian ratbag'. This curious propulsion drives him out of Finchley, and out of the life he shares with Sharon and her 'rampant marvellings', to Cornwall. There he offends serious ramblers with his slip-on snakeskin shoes, fur coat and antagonism to all things green and growing as he stomps the wild Atlantic cliffs on long, morbid walks, tampering with the truth, tangling with the imperious Camilla - and telling a riotous tale. By the winner of the Man Booker Prize and author of The Finkler Question.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780099288282
ISBN-10: 0099288281
Format: Paperback
(196mm x 130mm x 18mm)
Pages: 272
Imprint: Vintage
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 6-May-1999
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Reviews

UK Kirkus Review » Barney, a man preoccupied with sex and literature, becomes obsessed by the life and work of a 19th-century author - hailed by Barney as a 'prurient little Victorian ratbag' - and sets off from north London to Cornwall to seek out the truth about this man, offending the locals and disturbing the peace. An original and riotous tale, full of wit, wanderings and bizarre encounters. (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » Though British novelist Jacobson hitches suggestive trifles to his books (Coming From Behind, in 1983, was his first) and puts his Jewish boy/man protagonists through various obsessive sexual hoops (here, the hero, Barney Fugelman, is never so excited as when he's steered one of his successive wives into the arms of another man. . . and he, Barney, can watch); he's basically a sub-genre writer: British academic satire - with the Portnoyesque stuff put in as strictly gratuitous trimming. In this book, Barney Fugelman, living with lush first wife Sharon, who owns a bookshop, finds himself volunteering to be a subject for a visiting hypnotist. To everyone's surprise, under trance he seems to travel back in time and assume the voice of young Thomas Hardy. Sharon, in turn, becomes obsessed with the idea that Barney is Hardy, reincarnate; which ultimately allows Barney, a self-destructive sort of voyeur, to introduce a friend, a Hardy critic, into the Fugelman's marriage bed, a trois. And when Barney finds himself thrown out of that bed, he moves on, he and his Hardy business and the strange allure it seems to have for certain literary women. He moves to (where else?) Wessex, Hardy country; and there is taken in by Camilla, another Hardy fanatic/lecturer. How tireless Jacobson can milk this one donnish joke is call for some admiration; and the book is never less than raffishly stylish ("I had been trying to get other people to see the lewdness of the human body all my life. I had been baulked at every turn by jollity, blank incomprehension, lyricism, or sheer bloody-minded wholesomeness"). But the self-consciousness of the novel is its hallmark. You can compare it to an admixture of three academic-writer Johns: Barth with Hawkes with Irving - it's about that strategic. And unless you have an inexhaustible yen for grad-student extrapolation under a light gloss of fetishism, this isn't going to satisfy despite its smoothness. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - Howard Jacobson

Howard Jacobson has written fourteen novels and five works of non-fiction. He won the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Award in 2000 for The Mighty Walzer and then again in 2013 for Zoo Time. In 2010 he won the Man Booker Prize for The Finkler Question and was also shortlisted for the prize in 2014 for his most recent novel, J.

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