Tuesday, June 10, 2014

My Criminal World

Henry Sutton
My Criminal World

Harvill Secker, 2013

David Slavitt is a middle-aged crime writer, the author of the thrillers of medium popularity, father of two children, obedient husband. In the morning he drives the kids to school, then writes, and in the evening serves to the university colleagues of his wife cooking for them one dish and then another. And not that David is depressed about his life, it seems like the wife loves him, his books have readers, even though he’s not recognized on the street, and yet the writer's life has lost some direction. The new novel is not written, though deadline is rapidly approaching, the agent presses and requests from David more violence in his books (as an example pointing to a young talent, for whose novel publishers fought at the auction), his wife Maggie distences away from him and spends more time at work.

Slavitt does begin writing his new novel, staying in trend, with a female cop as the main character, and squeezes out a scene ot two every day, while he begins to suspect his wife having an affair with a student.

World couldn’t bear another novel about a writer’s block if My Criminal World wasn’t a subtle satire on the publishing world and the lives of middle-class suburbia. And this satire is quite softie, as David himself.

David himself has no intention to scoff at someone or laugh at something. He is depressed from all sides, he isn’t resting, and he does not dare to argue with anyone. His editor avoids him as a hopeless author, his agent is coddling him and tries to lead to the right path (ie the path of the bestseller), his wife shrugs off and complaines about tiredness. And inner uncertainty pushes the protagonist to such actions, which at other times he would not have thought of. So, a stay-at-home dad turns into the character of moderately suspenseful domestic thriller.

The publishing world is extremely prudent in this novel, so it is relatively easy to make fun of it. Course for commercialization fiction has taken finds his way in My Criminal World. David himself, perhaps, is the last of all the characters who think about money, but everyone else is trying to milk the author of the books before throwing him away. Publicity team prepares a U.S. tour, the agent teaches the writer how to write, the editor meets only with those who bring in cash.

Simultaneously with the main events of the novel we read manuscripts and fragments of the new Slavitt book. His novel is a typical British police procedural, callous, clumsy, with the change of POV in each chapter. Surprisingly, Henry Sutton managed to stylize these fragments from an average thriller. Compared to this Sutton’s novel, Slavitt’s novel looks pathetic. Slavitt is a nice guy, but what a mediocre writer he is.

Henry Sutton returned the faith that the novels about writer’s block could still be exciting and well-written. I will read more from Sutton with a great pleasure, but I wouldn’t ever read Slavitt.

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