66. What a Carve Up!, Jonathan Coe (1994)

This, for me, is the 90s novel, and one of the very few attacks on ‘Thatcherism’ that I find convincing. I read it when it first came out, and spent most of the time either crying with laughter or nearly throwing up, particularly over the stuff relating to factory farming. The plot is deliberately, ludicrously complicated, but Coe steers the reader through multiple shifts in narrator, fictions-within-fictions and all the other postmodern devices that, in other hands, are so horribly hackneyed. One of the reasons I love it is because it’s a ‘biography novel’, about someone trying to write the life story of an ambiguous and elusive character; that’s always appealed to me, and you’ll find quite a few fake biogs on this list. From the moment you open What a Carve Up! you know you’re in the hands of a supremely skilled artist; it’s a bit like undergoing surgery from the top man in his field. Coe’s jokes are right up my street, and the sequence in which his novelist hero attempts to write porn still ranks among my all-time funniest reading experiences ever.

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Filed under My top 100 novels

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