Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Coleridge versus Tolstoy

Nicholas Coleridge: is he really the New James Joyce?

One of the hazards of modern authorship is the amazon review. When you publish a book you wait excitedly for your first reader critique on amazon. Then you get one - laudatory, enthusiastic, bowled-over - and you eagerly tell your friends. Then it turns out it was written by your publicist. So you wait for your second review, and you get just as excited by this new, even keener assessment - until you remember you wrote it yourself when you were drunk.

Then you start sourly checking out the amazon reviews of your peers - the books released by people you know, or people who just happened to publish in the same week as you.

As regular readers will know, I published a book some months ago. Happily I have accrued a few nice reader reviews, not all of which are fake (as far as I'm aware). But that hasn't stopped me bitterly auditing the reviews of books that came out the same week as mine.

I have been particularly exercised by the amazon reviews of Much Married Man, a froth-filled piece of socialite dreck, written by the notoriously snobbish, multi-millionaire manager of Conde Nast Magazines, Nicholas Coleridge. Why should I be so annoyed by the reviews of a foil-wrapped, chick-litty potboiler, which might be meaningless but is also quite harmless?

Because Coleridge has got, it seems, just about all his friends and workers to post reviews saying how magnificent his tome is, especially when compared to, say, Dostoevsky. Go on - check out if you don't believe me.

Up until now, though, I have felt myself alone in my exasperated and peculiar contempt for this "novel" - and its bizarrely mendacious reviews. However, imagine my delight when I logged on to amazon this morning and found a new reader review for Nicholas Coleridge's Much Married Man.

Here it is:

"Once every hundred years or so a book comes along which profoundly changes the way you approach the world. Yes, I have read Ulysses, I have read Sons and Lovers, I have read Hard Times, I have read A Passage To India, I have read Heart of Darkness, I have read Waiting for Godot, I have read Decline And Fall, but none can compare to the creative perfection of Much Married Man. Much Married Man is a stunning exercise in language - words are Coleridge's bauble, his toy - but it is much more than that. It is a harrowing journey into the centre of one man's alienated and displaced psyche. The journey that Much Married Man takes us on is bleak, dark, sometimes painful, but very necessary. As a study of modern man's isolation in the impossibly complex capitalist economy it is essential reading and it makes Coleridge's case all the more powerful that he is founding a Cotswolds commune to be run on the principles of cooperation rather than money-grubbing and competition. An important contribution to Western literature and a sure candidate for the next Nobel prize."

Couldn't have put it better meself.

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