Dead Cat With Firelighter by Frances Day

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Dead Cat With Firelighter by Frances Day

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A twisty and enjoyable look at the hubris and horrors of Hollywood and modern art fame, which suffers from the lack of introduction and depth to the characters.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 172 Date: November 2002
Publisher: Solidus
ISBN: 978-0954337759

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We're in the world of modern art. A couple who met at art college are on the verge of breaking up, as her success at fine arts is only bettered by his sudden rise to fame in the world of his conceptual, pompous bits of (almost literally) rubbish and nothing. We're also in the world of the wannabe stars and starlets, trying to make the jump from well-thought of provincial comedy theatre to Hollywood. And in the background in both instances, are guru-type Svengalis, pulling strings, and aiming to do as much as is morally justifiable - and a lot more - to get their charges to fame. And a bit of contract killing and murder on the side.

It could be too easy taking the mickey of obvious targets such as modern art, but it's done well. There is an obvious scathing tongue here, but it's been reined in a lot, and is never overdone. I enjoyed lines like the character being happy to stand out by only getting a Third at university. The artist's advisor is deliberately looking forward to getting bad criticism in the sheer and simple knowledge it will all be of benefit.

It could, too, be hard to successfully make us care about characters from the shallow end of the gene and talent pool trying to work their way up in the world. And here the book suffers its biggest problem. Again there are flashes of quality judgement being made by our author, in opinion and wordplay - one character cannot see the join between her partner and his stunt-double on the big screen - but I suffered throughout by the characters being introduced in an arbitrary way, that meant I had to think each time who was whom, and never did get any empathy for them.

The plot that takes them all on their various paths from high to low and back again, or vice versa, is quite intriguing at times, and is a solid ground for the book. But for me the characters needed a lot more flesh, and differentiation - a silly thing to say when you consider what some of them get up to. The artistic twist the book to some extent hinges on at the end, while it should have wowed me and given me reason to acclaim this as a success, was a lot closer to passing me by.

This is definitely no Pollock, or empty wall, but the people in it were Whiteread sculptures and not the outlying casts.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

This was certainly better than certain other books about modern art I would not wish to mention by name.

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