Zoo Time by Howard Jacobson - review by Keith Miller

Keith Miller

Guy & Dolls

Zoo Time

By

Bloomsbury 376pp £18.99 order from our bookshop
 

Guy Ableman – the assonance with ‘Jacobson’ may strike the attentive reader – is a novelist in early middle age who reveres Henry Miller and, perhaps not surprisingly, is suffering an empathy deficit vis-à-vis his largely female readership (every novelist’s readership is largely female, of course, apart maybe from the odd science-fiction bod). One by one, his contacts in the publishing industry are falling prey to violent death, like Spinal Tap’s drummers. Publishing itself is looking pretty terminal, with the novel qua novel – qua is one of Guy’s favourite words – caught between the Scylla of digital technology and the Charybdis of a cretinised, sentiment-crazed readership.

This much is all fairly plausible, though it’s a bit of an end-times scenario – and there’s something a little, let’s say, bracing about that equation of ‘largely female’ with ‘cretinised’ and ‘sentiment-crazed’. As if his professional travails weren’t enough, Guy’s intimate life is likewise transfixed: he is caught, pinned

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