Rupert Thomson has written a novel under the title of memoir. With it, he takes his readers for a ride through hell called family. Numerous book critics were taken in by the word memoir and fell for his ploy of pretend biography; they actually believed it. Reading the published reviews, he was extremely successful despite the fact that plot, style, and hyperbole used are a dead give-away.
Book critics are at their best (or worst) when imagining autobiographic content in fiction. If the actual biographical facts won't fit, they'll change the biography of the author. They have become so good at it that no book can be published without an in-depth analysis of the author’s personal life to ‘prove’ that content. Not stopping short at contemporary literature, the same system is applied to Shakespeare and Chaucer. It has become a very bad joke and quite boring, too.
Rupert Thomson turned the tables on them with this book. Granta published his latest book under the title This Party’s Got To Stop: A Memoir. In it, the author takes the book critics on the ride of their life. And he takes all the unnecessary autobiographies and authorized biographies published every year along with them. This book is showing them up for the fiction they are.
His story lets three brothers move back into the family home after the death of both parents. The boys being in their twenties and one of them married with child, the combination is perfect to tell a horror story of human relations and claustrophobia. Rupert Thomson plays his trumps to the full; the extended set of drinks, drugs, and rock n’ roll come into play while he strictly keeps to the literary form of the novel.
As the story evolves, it becomes darker, more claustrophobic, and violent. He shows that living too close together may become a trap, a negation of individuality. Personal traits and idiosyncrasy become signs of aggression to the people bundled up under one roof. Accordingly, the young family bunches together against the two bachelor brothers. Husband and wife get paranoia and start moving through the house armed with knives.
If his dream sequences and flashbacks are sometimes boring or distracting, Rupert Thomson makes up for it when pulling the legs of book critics. I think my favourite joke is the part where he explains that the family unit suspect the bachelor brothers of an ‘incestuous homosexual relationship.’ He stops short of trying to explain where the genetic defects of their children would come from, but I felt that he was sorely tempted to do just that.
Around this story, he weaves a web of research into the family's history. The process shows how fast we tend to forget facts and replace real memories with pure fiction. He also exemplifies the reluctance of relatives to go into family history that they perceive as disturbing or abnormal; a normality measured against their absolutely normal selves, obviously.
All in all, it is a very canny and interesting book. It is mandatory reading for all those who think that families should live in each others pockets and those that permanently lament the lack of closeness within families. He shows that geographical distance between family members brings them closer to each other rather than the other way round.
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