Friday, 18 January 2013
Writer’s Note 1: Howard Jacobson’s Zoo Time
Here we go!
The writer. Hard not to believe this is not highly autobiographical. But one can trace this with all good writers. Enhanced by being narrated in Abelson’s first person point of view. Whatever the the fact fiction allows witty exaggerations in all directions and makes the novel unique.
The writing. Highly literary even when it is being scatological. Tight complex use of syntax to support the changes of pace and the mood of the narrator. Lots of word-play and syntactical play showing off how the cleverness of Guy Ableman. Extremely comples writing made trasparent making the book both human and accessible.
Central character: Guy Ableman. Probably like Jacobson, Ableman has a disputatious mind. Abelman is highly self aware and in his narration shows us a peculiar combination of arrogance and intellectual passive aggression. Timid on the one hand and, on the other a writer of impious disturbance.(His own term). He is often his own target – using full on sexual assertions and innuendo like a naughty boy. The central theme of the story is his obsession with both his wife and her mother: a very original triangle.
Publishing and the writer’s life. Hilariously sharp, insightful observation of the publishing trade – writers, editors, agents, literary festivals all fall to his forensic wit. (Found myself saying Yes! Yes!) Has no time for people who make a habit of being cultured, declaring that if you ‘keep people away from art and judgement they are good.’
‘Belief contains its own parody.’ – wish I’d said that!
Complex and evolving assertions the impact of religion on identity – particularly the Jewish identity – trickle right through the whole text, enriching it and giving it true savour.
Like Jacobso , Ableman is often seen as mysogynistic – he has a witty take on this view of his work – he observes women closely with over-focused adoration laced with fear. His apparent humility masks a kind of amazed suspicion. It is a unique, not a mysogynistic view. Jacobson’s subtle prose demonstrates Ableman’s affection for and fascination with the women in his life. But, as Abelman says. ‘Tenderness is a fine thing but it is not understanding.’
I have learned a lot. I think there are elements of humour in my novels but sustaining this level of true, meaningful comedy throughout what is essentially a serious novel takes a special gift.