Joanna Kavenna

Death of a Salesman

May We Be Forgiven

By

Granta Books 480pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

With satire, the author walks a tightrope: how to mock and upbraid her characters, without alienating the reader entirely? How to make them risible, overblown, and yet sympathetic? In her latest novel, A M Homes not only walks this tightrope but juggles fire and does a few backflips at the same time. May We Be Forgiven is a vitriolic satire of contemporary American society, often very funny and at times completely savage. No one escapes, least of all the reader, who lurches, punch-drunk, from one boisterously tasteless scene to another. A dog licks up the blood of his murdered mistress, and then succumbs to diarrhoea; a fragile pensioner, wired up to various life-sustaining machines, rapes his equally incapacitated wife. Of course we are well beyond the ritual scatologies of modernism: it is no longer shocking to find characters fucking, shitting, pissing, puking or wanking. Yet, in May We Be Forgiven, A M Homes breaks new ground in viscera. Her novel shoves the reader headfirst into gore and excreta, everything inflected by a sense of life as an incompetent and ultimately futile revolt against entropy, dissolution and decay. 

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