Up a Tree in the Park at Night with a Hedgehog by Paul Robert Smith
|Up a Tree in the Park at Night with a Hedgehog by Paul Robert Smith|
|Category: Literary Fiction|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Very funny and very original if rather non-linear. Men will cringe as they read, while women will discover what they have always suspected - men suck. For all those who like their writing to come from leftfield.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 224||Date: February 2009|
Benton Kirby bumbles from minor crisis to minor crisis in a sea of his own anomie. Armed with a philosophy degree, he knows he could do better than guide at Madame Tussauds or teach English as a Foreign Language, but he doesn't. He knows he should have been distraught that his fiance died the very day before their wedding, but he wasn't. He knows that his affair with his virginal Korean student is madness, but he doesn't stop it, and he can't [be bothered] to choose between Cherry and his girlfriend Cassie. He also knows that matters will come to a head sooner or later, but he pretty much decides to think about it sooner or later, too.
I'm a girl, and Benton Kirby is pretty much everything that's wrong with boys, but oh, I did find Up a Tree in the Park at Night with a Hedgehog funny. Will Ferguson is blurbed on the back of the book, saying:
Up a tree (funny)in the park (romantic). At night (sad). With a hedgehog (weird and wholly original). A funny, romantic, sad, wholly original novel.
And I can see where he's coming from. As Benton careers from disaster to disaster - most of them banana skin hilarious - you simply can't help but laugh. Each set-piece is exaggerated into a slapstick disaster of the kind a stand-up comic would tell and there are plenty of surreal touches so they're not too painful and the boys can cringe, but not too badly, and the girls can tut, but not too spitefully. Despite his woeful moral behaviour, you do develop quite a sympathy for the hapless Benton.
There's a beginning and a middle and an end, but only sort of. The first person narrative consists mostly of Benton's digressions into the past events that eventually lead him to be up a tree in the park at night with a hedgehog. If you like things all wrapped up, you may well dislike this book. But if you like to laugh at our sad little human predicaments, without malice, you'll love it.
My thanks to the nice people at Vintage for sending the book.
Fellow sniggers will also enjoy Submarine by Joe Dunthorne.
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