Giles Coren writes witty restaurant reviews for The Times in which he sometimes offers a perceptive commentary on contemporary British life. Take this enjoyably overwritten attack on the diners at a hip Japanese eatery in London: ‘the oligarchs, the parasites, the pampered plutocrats, the crapulent kakistocracy [sic] that tramples on the decent, the modest, the good and the kind, the right and the proper, to satisfy its greed, its vanity, its vulgar, cupiditous, misplaced sense of superiority’. I approached Winkler, Coren’s first novel, with this kind of fiery stuff in mind – curious to see what he might do when cut loose from the constraints of newspaper journalism. What I found was a slightly odd melange.
The book’s eponymous hero is a cynical and unfulfilled 29-year-old who feels ‘cosmic detachment’ from other people, lives in a ramshackle shared house that smells of boiled heads and has a girlfriend who makes him ‘anxious and strangely sick’. Winkler works in the gloomy shadow of Canary Wharf, in a