This year I have become a reader of books once more.
What with moving agencies and flats over the last few months I’ve now got a longer commute and a decent canteen within the building where I can curl up with a weighty tome for half an hour at lunchtime rather than wolfing down a Sainsbury’s take-out tikka masala at my desk whilst still answering emails from clients and phonecalls from a charming man called George Jackson from Widnes who insisted on being sent each and every new comparethemeerkat.com ad when it was released.
Highlights have so far been Howard Jacobson’s The Finkler Question and Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom; the latter being a book that I admire, not only for its epic scale and precise characterization, but for the fact that it is unashamedly a traditional novel, it feels like it shares its DNA with the great Russian epics and is unapologetic about its traditionalist aspirations.
Then I remembered the tube carriages of 2010 being continually spotted with numerous Saul Bass-style paperbacks which turned out, on further inspection, to be copies of David Nicholls’ One Day, shortly to be made into a film starring Anne Hathaway
Never one to miss out on the opportunity of reading a book just before its adaptation is released in cinemas, chiefly so I can then make authoritarian cracks about it ‘not being true to the book’, I snapped up a copy and began to read.
Now I’m a fan of popular fiction, it’s not all Booker prize-winners and NYT-stamped ‘masterpieces’ (I could quite happily read the historical whodunnits of Robert Harris and CJ Sansom for the rest of my days) – I certainly loved Nicholls’ Starter For Ten. However One Day is one of the most frustrating and insipid books I have ever struggled through.
It’s lead characters, locked together in an uncomfortable Sisyphean loop, seem to take turns in to appear selfish, dull and cruel by degrees. Reading the book feels like spending 9 hours with the vile characters from Marber’s Closer, itself a work who’s neat Chinese box symmetry I find infuriating.
Nicholls’ eye for detail is exquisite in the opening sections, particularly his description of Emma’s university digs, but quickly he settles into trotting out endless predictably ironic similes, transforming his story into an extended Alanis Morrisette verse. Cinema beverages are described as being ‘as big as human torsos’ and there are pages and pages dedicated to wry descriptions of such tired subjects as the fast-food industry and the vapid nature of populist TV during the 1990s. (Really? Shows like ‘TFI Friday’ and ‘Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush’ weren’t put together with care and concern for the nation’s cultural dignity? Tell me more Mr. Nicholls.)
I can forgive a book for telling me nothing new, but does it have to do it in such a hackneyed fashion?
To be quite honest I think the adaptation looks far more appealing since you are no doubt spared the whingeing internal observations of ‘Em and Dex’ – one syllable of voice-over and I could be heading for the exit.
The central irony within the book is that Nicholls wastes a great deal of time mocking a key character’s attempts at humour, and yet, once the final page has turned and the excruciating finale has played out, it is failed comedian ‘Ian’ whom the book most resembles: tired, ridden with cliché and fundamentally un-enlightening.
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Some selections below from The Antlers’ new LP, out tomorrow on French Kiss.
Myself and Jonathan Gales were sufficiently blown away by Peter Silberman and co. at Heaven the other night and ‘Burst Apart’ is a great step forward for the band; no it’s not Hospice Part II, but that was a one-off to be treasured not replicated and was essentially Peter’s solo project. The new tracks remain fiercely orginial whilst at the same time sound like a traditional rock n’ roll band finding their collective voice.
Enjoy and watch a fantastic version of ‘Rolled Together’ featuring Neon Indian below.