The Whole Point of Friends

Theo Tait

  • The Adulterants by Joe Dunthorne
    Hamish Hamilton, 173 pp, £12.99, February, 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.

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