Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Being boring

With The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim, Coe has undertaken to write the life of a bore from the bore’s point of view (at one point, in the book’s best passage, the hero appears to bore someone literally to death) as his life unravels and he sets off on a journey of uncomfortable discovery. This is not unprecedented, but it is a stark choice. The most famous recent bores have appeared not in novels but on television, in the characters of Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan) and David Brent (Ricky Gervais). In drama the actor is able to operate in the gap between the character’s idea of himself and the world’s, and a screenwriter can create all kinds of grotesquerie in a realist context. It is harder to generate this friction in a novel.—Sean O'Brien, TLS

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