Full disclosure: I am in the acknowledgements of Toby Litt’s ‘novel in short stories’, I Play the Drums in a Band Called ‘Okay’. Normally I wouldn’t review a book by an author who had acknowledged me, but in this instance the acknowledgement (‘Matt Thorne, for the new sounds’) isn’t a thanks for any literary help or inspiration, but for the stream of avant-garde noise tapes and CDs I’ve sent the author over the years (in return, Toby sends jazz in order to civilise me). I assumed he was putting them straight in the bin; the fact that he’s presumably listened to them and that they might in some way have helped to inspire his new book makes me feel critically generous towards him. But I will remain impartial.
Reviewing one of his previous books, I described Toby Litt as a conceptual novelist, and this seems increasingly true with each subsequent book. He seems to view books almost as art projects, each one self-contained and completely different to the others. Over the past few years he has produced a