Observer Review: Who & # 8217 ; s Sorry Now? By Howard Jacobson Essay, Research Paper
Take my married woman & # 8230 ; Who & # 8217 ; s Sorry Now? Howard JacobsonCape? 16.99, pp325The hazards and booby traps of lunching at length in Soho are many, but for Marvin Kreitman and Charlie Merriweather, a Montecello-fuelled endurance contest that spills over into supper & # 8211 ; their last, in many ways & # 8211 ; and ends in St Thomas & # 8217 ; s A & A ; E, some 14 hours subsequently, has life-altering effects.Kreitman and Charlie are middle-aged work forces with nil much except themselves to worry approximately, and every bit different as two amusing originals could be. Kreitman is dark, Jewish and & # 8217 ; squishy-hearted & # 8217 ; , a former & # 8216 ; Casanova of University College & # 8217 ; who long ago abandoned graduate student research to take up his male parent & # 8217 ; s mantle as the & # 8216 ; luggage baron of south London & # 8217 ; .Purses are Kreitman & # 8217 ; s concern, and he gleefully exemplifies every Elizabethan dual entendre and Freudian footer, go throughing his yearss in an titillating haze in chase of his life & # 8217 ; s other concern, adult females and sex. Besides his married woman, his girls and his female parent, Kreitman loves & # 8211 ; at the last count & # 8211 ; five more adult females, including the female parent of his married woman & # 8217 ; s interior interior decorator & # 8217 ; s ex-husband.Charlie, meanwhile, is a pink-and-white type, hobbled by prep-school squelchs and still woolgathering about legs and mammillas, even after about a one-fourth of a century of wedded cloud nine. Charlie & # 8217 ; s married woman is Charlie ( Chas ) , a frolicing giantess in a spinnaker skirt, and together they write kids & # 8217 ; s books, valorously combating the return of & # 8216 ; lower-middle-class thaumaturgy & # 8217 ; . But even fidelity has its human deaths and Charlie, it seems, is merely deceasing of & # 8216 ; nice sex & # 8217 ; , reduced to ogling teenage waitresses and beaming at any adult female who & # 8217 ; ll run into his gaze.The inquiry neither has dared ask until now is this: which adult male is unhappy, he who stays place for nice sex, or he who keeps a adult female above every bag store South of the river? Not precisely Descartes, but for post-Viagra manhood, the reply must be of more than go throughing involvement. To Charlie & # 8217 ; s sozzled, Seventies head, the lone solution is a married woman barter, and no Oklahoman has the thought taken root than a Lycra-clad rhythm cour
ier named Nyman zips onto the scene, plowing through Kreitman and his scruples to play Puck in the resulting matrimonial merry-go-round.Comedy has ever been a serious concern for Jacobson, and throughout this darkly dappled triptych, calamity lurks merely over the page. It’s there in the life of Charlie’s male parent, a grammar school maestro who turns cartwheels and spends his concluding yearss quaking beneath the kitchen tabular array in the aftermath of ‘comprehensivisation’ ; it’s at that place, excessively, in Kreitman’s mother’s 2nd matrimony to Norbert, a ‘mouse-man’ who had seemed the reply to her supplications until he fell victim to a shot. Cryings are the lone option to laughter of this sort, and for all the screw that goes on – and there’s a batch, both messy and metaphysical – tear-water is the bodily fluid that flows most freely through this novel, most of it Kreitman’s.Kreitman is a monstrous, arch mutant of Jacobson’s old hearty anti-heroes, moved entirely by his ‘umbilical’ involvement in adult females. For him, sex is all about ‘murder and mayhem’ , and yet he is a ‘clinically sensitive’ swooner, ‘a consecutive faller-in-love’ , and he knows that he’s a dinosaur. It’s Nyman who is the existent threat, that soi-disant nowhere-man and veteran of world Television whom Chas senses is ‘more rattishly and motivationally a man’ than Kreitman or puppy-dog Charlie rolled into one.Despite its rubric, Who’s Sorry Now? is a rich, impenitently amusing novel, full of energy and energy and Bolshevik inventiveness. Its prose pulsates with fresh images, from the Spanish prostitute whose voice is ‘a bike concatenation lubricated with aniseed’ , to the sort of green-eyed monster that explodes in the tummy like a bagful of sherbert lemons, while a puff of melodrama adds an excess component of farce.Clapham Common is, of class, a far call from the Forest of Arden and in the terminal the Kreitman-Merriweather symmetricalness is skewed as their new-found bliss becomes merely another once-upon-a-time. In the shutting chapter, the narrative promenades off to be snuffed out by the swish of a mistress’s whip, go forthing Jacobson to delight in the ‘wonderment of rude’ .