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Saturday, February 24, 2018

London and the South-East (2008) by David Szalay


Book Review
London and the South-East (2008)
 by David Szalay

  David Szalay had a break-out book in 2016, All That Man Is: A Novel, which made it to the 2016 Booker Prize Short-list.  Cue the American re-issues of his earlier books which didn't get an American publisher when they were originally released.

   London and the South-East is Szalay's first novel, published in 2008, finally published in the United States in October of last year. All That Man Is: A Novel, drew attention for it's experimental technique, with some critics going so far as to say it wasn't, in fact, a novel.  London and the South-East, on the other hand, is very much a novel, a bildungsroman of a sort, set among the world of sales men specializing in selling ad space in trade magazines to international corporations.  Szalay tips his thematic hand early on, when the narrator Paul Rainey, described as a "hapless anti-hero," makes a lengthy series of observations about the movie version of Glengarry Glen Ross and makes it clear that all the sales-men he runs with, a grotty bunch, as they might say in England, are equally influenced by the "example" of Glengarry Glen Ross.

  You might accurately observe that London and the South-East is best summarized as "Glengarry Glen Ross meets the Office (UK version."   Szalay, English though he may be, doesn't write in a recognizably English fashion, in the sense that he is not trying to portray a specific socio-economic-ehtnic group.  Paul Rainey is recognizably English, but he is relatable to a potential American audience.   I mean he doesn't have a drivers license, but still.

GrayWolf Press, his publisher, is a non-profit, so he is outside the orbit of the big three (big two?) of American publishing, but at least he's here.  Maybe his next book will get a "major label" release in the US.

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