Sunday, 2 January 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Lights Out in Wonderland.

Finally, a book!!! And what a great book too! One of the Guardian’s best books of last year.

This 2010 novel by the Australian bad-boy writer DBC Pierre (DBC stands for ‘Dirty but Clean’) is a modern odyssey. However, unlike Odysseus, Gabriel Brockwell’s aim is not coming home but committing suicide. Once he realises that his 25 years of life were more than enough, he acquires a new confidence, decides to go out with a bang and it seems that the providence is guiding him on his path of self-destruction. Gabriel approaches his last days on earth with imagination. He travels from London to Tokyo to Berlin, high as a kite, collecting various tokens and engaging in some hedonistic activities on the way. Think fugu fish ovaries, escape from rehab, octopus intercourse, high-cuisine mafia, orgy at the SS headquarters. But, of course, the shock factor is but a minor treat for the reader.

I was completely enamoured with DBC’s writing style, it is so free and imaginative, full of truly funny metaphors and comparisons, the kind that make you chuckle to yourself in recognition. Many of his images and descriptions stay with you even after having finished the book; I, for one, will never be able to look at a British Rail train attendant without the thought of stabbing him. It also made my waiting around the Frankfurt airport beehive for the connecting flight a much more enjoyable experience.

The novel is really a satire on modern life, capitalist values and the notion of exclusivity. Gabriel’s observations are always well informed, fresh, and acute, sometimes they are cynical and angry, sometimes romantic and self-pitying. The decadence in the book reaches new heights with every chapter, finally culminating in a bizarre and abrupt ending.

My favourite part of the book is set in Berlin. The author clearly knows the city well and gives it a very accurate assessment; it was also nice to read of the places that I’ve been to and picture the characters in real settings. “Dirty but Clean” Pierre has captured our zeitgeist perfectly, for better or for worse. I couldn’t recommend it more!

A taster:
‘History has stalked Berlin.
She has nothing to learn from the Cologne bourgeoisie.
If you put aside three centuries over which she anchored a kingdom, a province, an empire, a republic, a fascist Reich and a Marxist-Leninist commune, and ignoring the fact that her streets gave birth to communism, modernist architecture, fascism, the theory of relativity and the atom bomb – in the space of twenty-five years alone, Berlin’s foyers went from hosting naked sex slaves with pet monkeys and jewellery full of cocaine, to Adolf Hitler’s command, a Russian mass rape, an American middle class, and a Soviet state that would shoot you for crossing the city.
Berlin has nothing to learn from anyone.
From all I’ve read and watched in the years since I was there, sniffing news like a puppy, this is what I sense of her position: that if today London is a drinker on the verge of losing her keys, Berlin is one just woken up to find herself still alive, and on a Sunday.’

No comments:

Post a Comment