Thursday, November 6, 2008

'I know that kind of man ...'

Every now and then as I soar gracefully or churn doggedly through my working week's quota of contemporary fiction, some sentence or paragraph will leap off the page as though someone had switched the power on. The words go up in lights, as on Broadway, and I hear a sort of 'BING' noise about halfway between the seatbelt-fastening bing and the bing you hear when you've hit the target and won the stuffed tiger. Sometimes there's more than one bing. There can be up to five.

So there I was on Page 8 of Howard Jacobson's The Act of Love, still blowing on my coffee and barely settled on the sofa, when ...

How you can tell on so brief an appraisal (and most of it from behind) that a man is an absentee libertine, that he lights fires and doesn't stop to see them blaze, that at the last he'd sooner withhold a sexual favour than confer one, I can't explain. Perhaps that sort of sexual sadism shows in the curvature of the spine.


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