Stuart Evans’s first novel is a comedy-of-ill-manners set in a nouveau riche milieu: a fantastic satirical performance and hyper-referential homage to masters past and present. Paul Keller is the Stephen Dedalus of the piece, the son of Robert and Sylvie, whose internal monologue is spliced into the action, and whose incestuous feelings for his sister lead to an increase in histrionic imagery. Sylvie Keller’s sections comprise of pastiches, including the Penelope chapter of Ulysses, and an amusing riff on Alain Robbe-Grillet. Robert Keller, the paterfamilias, has a more conventional narration, while Eric Foster, “vernissage of the independent cinema”, is the most intriguing experiment: a cinematographic narration, blending snippets from his screenplays, pieces of real-time dialogue, and more theoretical musings, mirroring the approach of his movies. Gavin McNamara is the final voice: a caustic internal monologue from an parodic Irish character, sprinkled with amusing portmanteau words. These narrations are sequenced in different orders over eight parts, mimicking the drunken headiness of the endless parties taking place. The end product is a fantastic intellectual romp that transcends its swinging setting and succeeds in impressing with each stylish sentence.
“Meritocrats is an extremely funny book. Although it makes the reader work hard for his pleasure, the reward is great. It is crammed with allusions, quotations, epigrams, aphorisms, and parodies of other novelists from Proust and Joyce to Graham Greene and Iris Murdoch. Stuart Evans aims at “tragical mirth” and scores a brilliant bull’s-eye.” — The Listener
“I can scarcely recall a more ambitious first novel than Stuart Evans’s Meritocrats, and few more interesting ones . . . Here is that rarity, a comic novel that not only takes the form seriously but actually tries to extend its scope.” — Norman Shrapnel, The Guardian
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