The Whole Point of Friends
- The Adulterants by Joe Dunthorne
Hamish Hamilton, 173 pp, £12.99, February 2018, ISBN 978 0 241 30547 8
The Adulterants is a very funny comedy of arrested development: a coming-of-age novel in which the main character is 33. Ray Morris is a shallow, infantile narcissist reluctantly facing the terrors of adulthood, in the form of his general lack of prospects, and the well-advanced pregnancy of his wife, Garthene, an intensive care nurse. (‘It is terrific to have a partner with the name Garthene. Just the mention of it brings decorum to a conversation.’) A freelance tech journalist, he sits in the front room of his flat in Clapton writing short articles about smart thermostats and attendance levels at IT conferences for a website called Techtracker.co.uk. In his twenties, Ray had enjoyed doing ‘boring, badly paid work because I could imagine telling future interviewers about it in the context of my brilliant success’. He had amused himself by, for instance, writing sentences composed exclusively of two and three-letter words in order to maximise his returns, at ten pence per word: ‘Do buy it if – big if – the men at LG can fix the bug in the Blu-ray.’ But now that responsibilities loom, the ‘tiny rebellions’ and the ironic underachievement feel less sustaining.
The full text of this book review is only available to subscribers of the London Review of Books.