Thursday, October 19, 2006

Utterly Monkey by Nick Laird

This is definitely being marketed as lad lit but it’s a cut above most lad lit in that it’s not the usual formula—dorky but likeable guy who can’t grow up and/or commit, surrounded by lovable but eccentric pals and the wackiness that ensues until dorky but likeable guy actually does grow up and/or commits. First off, Laird has a vocabulary that had me reaching for the dictionary and it wasn’t just one of those “I’ll really impress them if I use ‘crepuscular’ here instead of ‘twilight’” moves. Second, his main characters, old friends from Belfast, Danny and Geordie, aren’t the stock lad lit characters. They’re both a bit more thoughtful and in touch with themselves. Danny is living in London as a somewhat successful lawyer but hates his job. Geordie, who stayed in Belfast and hasn’t really done much with his life, shows up on Danny’s doorstep unannounced with a sack full of stolen money that is actually supposed to fund a terrorist action by Ulster loyalists. Cue ensuing wackiness! Throw in your inter-office, inter-racial love affair, chances to do right by “the people” by thwarting big business and a rather hurried ending and you have Utterly Monkey. Despite the Belfast connection, I found this reminiscent of Robert McLiam Wilson’s delightful Eureka Street (anyone have any idea what happened to Robert McLiam Wilson?) though not as clever or as laugh-out-loud funny. Still, Laird’s writing is strong and amusing and he tells a pretty engrossing tale.

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