Bloody Brilliant Banter
The other day I heard someone summarise the plot of Tim Parks’s new novel. The synopsis went something like this: ‘It’s about a middle-aged writer, whose life is revolutionised by anal massage. And he has an affair.’ In that moment I was struck anew by the many excellent qualities of Ross Raisin’s new book. The school of writerly self-absorption has given us much fine fiction, or semi-fiction, in recent years. But it can create a strong thirst for the opposite tendency: for novels that take you somewhere you haven’t been before, that create an enclosed, distinctive world of their own. There are very few good British novels about sport, and, David Peace aside, hardly any about football – despite its place in our culture. In A Natural, Raisin delves into the life of a lower league English football team – a subject never covered before, as far as I know, in literary fiction. Perhaps it doesn’t sound an immediately appealing prospect. But he makes it wholly absorbing.
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