- Shame by Salman Rushdie
Cape, 287 pp, £7.95, September 1983, ISBN 0 224 02952 5
- Scandal by A.N. Wilson
Hamish Hamilton, 233 pp, £8.95, September 1983, ISBN 0 241 11101 3
- Love and Glory by Melvyn Bragg
Secker, 252 pp, £7.95, September 1983, ISBN 0 436 06716 1
- The Complete Knowledge of Sally Fry by Sylvia Murphy
Gollancz, 172 pp, £7.95, September 1983, ISBN 0 575 03353 3
Four titles, and an abstract noun apiece – well, Melvyn Bragg has two, but it’s the well-known coupling as in (exactly as in, that’s rather the trouble) a fight for love-’n’-glory. Salman Rushdie’s word is a real operative concept, indeed a kind of virtue insistently contrasted with shamelessness. A.N. Wilsons term is more ironic and oblique, suggestive of the British public in a fit of morality: you get the sense that maybe too much of a fuss is about to be made of something. Sylvia Murphy’s knowledge is, to start with, not abstract at all, since it refers to a kind of encyclopedia or dictionnaire des idées reçues. All of these titles point to something about the book in question, I suppose, but none quite hits its central merit or interest. And it does play into the hands of that slack critical cliché, where a work is always found to be (weak copulative) about (weaker preposition) something. Half-baked analysis may cry out for ‘Themes’, but creators who know different shouldn’t go along with this reduction.
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