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John Lanchester

  • The Redundancy of Courage by Timothy Mo
    Chatto, 408 pp, £13.99, April 1990, ISBN 0 7011 3748 7

There’s a story that when Kazuo Ishiguro was studying creative writing at the University of East Anglia his tutor took him to one side. Ishiguro was at the time writing stories like the one contained in Firebird 2 – a punchy little McEwanesque conte in which the narrator’s mother dies from eating a poisoned fish. The tutor, who had worked in advertising, explained to Ishiguro the concept of the Unique Selling Point, or USP: the USP being the quality about a product which the advertiser wishes to stress in order to establish the identity of the brand. Thus, the USP of Fairy Liquid used to be that it was gentle on the washer-up’s hands, but is now – sign of the times? – the fact that it’s better value for money than its competitors. ‘Kazuo,’ the tutor allegedly said, ‘your USP is that you are Japanese.’

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