Jerusalem by Patrick Neate / rant
I wrote a short review of “Jerusalem” by Patrick Neate for the Morning Star. Here’s what I had to say:
Jerusalem by Patrick Neate
Patrick Neate’s “Jerusalem” is an entertaining romp through the fertile pastures of colonialism, English identity and familial relationships. Its opening chapters flit dizzyingly between the ruminations of a crippled Boar War survivor, the modern day Pinner family – a London twat-about-town touched with the alchemical ability to divine, and sell, the notion of contemporary cool, and his borderline alcoholic Blairite minister father – and the myths, mystics and realities of Zambawi, an AIDS ridden nation plagued by hyper-inflation and based, in part, on Zimbabwe.
Neate’s scope and ambition are impressive, and as he draws these disparate characters together the full weight of his cynicism and anger at Britain’s hypocrisy over Africa, its inability to come to terms with its imperial past, and the current status quo of soundbite politics and vacuous, bullshit-ridden PR driven celeb news becomes apparent. But the Pinners, self-obsessed and boring, are distinctly unlikable central characters, and one cares not for their plight. Which is, perhaps, the point.
The version that appeared in the paper can be found here. Only a few changes, but the alteration of the penultimate sentence changes its meaning entirely. I wrote (over-pretentiously) “One cares not for their plight”; the Star changed it to “no-one cares about their plight”. Which just isn’t true; plenty of characters in the novel care about these central characters – the question is whether any of them should bother. In the hugely unlikely event of Patrick Neate reading my review, he’d think I’d misunderstood the novel entirely, or was just being lazy. Or both.
I love the Morning Star, as it’s an island of proper left wing reporting & argument in a sea of right wing dross, but I’ve had the occasional niggle with editing before. For example, in my review of a book about Marxism and Science Fiction, they changed “I’m not sure if hobbits represent the petit bourgeoisie…” to “I’m not sure if jawas represent the petit bourgeoisie”.
A fairly minor change, sure, but an inexplicable one. The jury may still be out on hobbits’ exact place in the class struggle, the jawas certainly DO NOT represent the petits bourgeoisie. I *am* sure about that. If anything, they’re bedouins*.
And, given George Lucas’ less than p.c. record in the field of aliens representing certain races and nationalities, I’d best leave it at that.
* And you can’t see the jawas caring much about the struggle. They’d be happy under any political system – communist, capitalist, empire…