CONTEMPORARY FICTION Right Minutes Idle Matt Thorne (Sceptre £10)
For most of us, the best part of working in an office is the leaving of it at the end of the day. Not so Dan Thomas, the narrator of Eight Minutes Idle who, unhappy with his domestic situation, opts to move into his place of work full-time.
That’s the cue for 24-year-old novelist Matt Thorne to explore the psycho-geography of the call centre and the mental state of the British service sector employee. Being congenitally allergic to any form of responsibility, the self-obsessed Dan is the perfect test case. , r I
The book's genesis came from a spell the author spent on the night shift at a call centre while completing his first novel. It soon became clear that he had stumbled on a fruitful setting. 'I couldn’t really imagine another environment where you’d be sitting beside someone who was finishing off their PhD; somebody else who was straight out of school; someone who had just been made redundant and was taking any job they could find.’
As a result, his novel — let’s call it a nervous comedy — delineates the fluctuating alliances and tensions within Dan’s team during the working week, implying that there's more than a touch of the playground in these relationships. Particularly when Dan starts sleeping with the team leader.
Displaying a sly sense of humour and a sexual frankness that would have Jenny Eclair blushing, Eight Minutes Idle suggests that the extensive praise that greeted Thorne's debut, Tourist, including being named one of Vogue’s Young British Novelists of 1998, was far from misplaced. With a third novel and a BBCZ TV series (provisionally titled Modern Life is Rubbish) also in the offing, it’s unlikely he’ll be returning to the call centre.
Matt Thorne: literary idle
One-time catalogue model — he claims not to remember which one - Thorne is one of BritLit's breed of twentysomething writers crashing onto the nation's bookshelves over the last couple of years. Their ubiquity, he suggests, is the result of more than just publishers eager to hoover up youthful readers.
’lt’s okay now to become a writer,’ insists the man awarded The Guardian's Gatecrasher Of The Year title for '98. 'lt's not seen as quite the closed shop it maybe was at one time. It’s no longer a rarefied form that people see as middlebrow.
’A lot of us have grown up reading people like Bret Easton Ellis and Jay Mclnerny and therefore don't have the notion about what's right or wrong as to what should go in a novel. I think that’s resulted in increased vibrancy of the novel in the last five or six years.’ As Mogwai might say, here comes the young team.
(Teddy Jamieson) I Eight Minutes Idle is published on Thu 7 5 Apr:
Adie has had hot dinners, shows in this mainly black and white collection, the harshness and beauty of the life in that vast (Ountry. All of which is endowed by an unfalterrng sense of dignity from the particrpants.
The photographs are largely divrded geographically ~ the Himalayan foothills, the Ganges, rural havens and the fervent streets of Calcutta Open India. It is only when we get to the section on Mother Teresa that the horror of living in that region kicks in -— the blind, the deformed and those on the way out are pictured in the appropriately named House of the Dying.
The laughs really stop when we get to the Bangladesh section and the full horror of insect-covered corpses, cholera victims, fevered refugees and, most powerful of all, a father placing his dead child into the ’disposal area'.
Of course, you may take the view
PHOTOJOURNALISM India Don lvlcCullin (Cape £30) it; 1k 1k
Something of a labour of love, this Visual reportage has been brewrng
92 THE UST l5 29Apr 1999
Don McCullin: Thank U, India
since Don McCullin spoke of his ’undying love for India' in his autobiography Unreasonable Behaviour. Here, the man who has been in more war-zones than Kate
that all this is a mite explortatrve and unnecessary. The sane would say that this is a movrng and crucral look at a part of the world we all too readily forget about when newsworthiness appears to be such a disposable item. Brutal and beautiful. (Brian Donaldson)
Putting debut authors under the microscope. This issue: Michael Blaine.
Who he? Michael Blaine has written throughout his whole life with stories appearing in highly literary (and thus tiny circulation) publications such as The New England Review, Shenandoah and The North American Review. He has also written about books, media and politics for the Village Voice. He is currently Editor in Chief of New York Stories and teaches writing and literature at the City University of New York. Joyce Carol Oates and the late Raymond Carver have selected his short story work for anthologies. Location report He currently resides in the wrlds of Delaware County with his artist wrfe Rose Mackiewicz and Willy the Wonderdog. They lrve in a 160- year-old farmhouse precarrously perched on a boulder. It's a stone's throw from access to golf, skiing and vast auto graveyards. That type of thing.
His debut It’s called Whiteouts and starts when nrneteen-year-old Maurice Coleman checks himself out of a very expensrve mental facility and lurches off homeward. The medication soon wears off and the voices start up again. Forturtously, he has access to firearms and mvrtes his beloved family to a remote location to face their indivrdual fates.
Our hero He’s a psycho.
Catchline ’Sometimes yOU have to kill the people you love . . ’
Basically... Basically, it’s a very tense thriller indeed, concerning the way a family copes, or rather doesn’t, with the pressure of mental illness. And it's a pinpOirit analysis Of Just how far human beings will go to survive.
First line test ’Dr' Greenberg's beard is patchy and you can see islands of eczema on his cheeks and neck. He looks like a human goat.’
To whom is it credited? ’For Rose. Love for Life.’ (Brian Donaldson)
I Whiteouts is published by Headline at £9.99.