Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Review: Straight White Male - John Niven

I’ve been making ridiculous teenage fan girl squeal jumps when I heard that a new Niven was out soon. In my book, ‘Kill your Friends’ had outwitted Ellis’ ‘American Psycho’ by miles, and ‘The Second Coming’ was equally so hilarious and profound I’d happily replace bibles with it in hotel drawers. I had given them as gifts to quite a few friends who also couldn’t stop raving about them.

‘Straight White Male’ did not disappoint. Niven did again what he does best, and then some!
It’s an incredible piece of satire, this time about the Hollywood film industry, with a protagonist easily as vile as ‘Kill your Friends’’ Stelfox, packed with scenes so bizarre, grotesque and yet so bed-wettingly funny I spent the first half of it cackling madly on my attic sofa like a modern Bertha Mason. The poetry-reading scene? Jesus Christ, no more. No more! (One was also incredibly satisfied by Niven’s dig at the mentality at English universities, where a sense of intellectual snobbery on one side is permanently at war with a cut-throat business sense on the other, sacrificing the priority of education.)

But it moves on from there, because Kennedy Marr isn’t just a puppet there for your amusement. Niven created a full-on flesh-and-blood, multilayered, breathing and growing character with depth to his soul that he himself needs to uncover in equally funny and agonising steps, sucked in by his contempt and debauchery, only to find himself struggling to dig his way out of the mire of consequences and heartbreak. Marr is as much the study of a sociopath as he is a modern-day Scrooge or a contemporary George Bailey from ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’. But fear not: It never becomes soppy.

‘Straight White Male’ is a novel that has ripped right through me. I cannot wait for its release so I can pelt the public with it.

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