1995, and at a party in Bedford, Mary meets Jack and Neal, a pair of hipsters and self-confessed 'Beats' stuck (un)squarely in the sixties. After a 'Beat (not-quite) Happening' at the local library, the three of them (and Neal's cat Koko) set off in Mary's Vauxhall on a road trip to Brighton in search of literary fame and fortune. But, this is neither the time nor the place for free love, uncomplicated sex and unrestrained cool - this is 1990s Britain and everything comes with a price ...
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Toby Litt is the author of Adventures in Capitalism, Beatniks, Corpsing, deadkidsongs, Exhibitionism and Finding Myself. He was named one of Granta's 20 Best of Young British Novelists, 2003.From Publishers Weekly:
This tender first novel by Litt (Adventures in Capitalism) is narrated by Mary, a mid-'90s college graduate, living with her parents in the heart of England and bored beyond belief. At a party, she meets Jack and Neal, two modern-day beatniks who got their names from heroes Kerouac and Cassady. The duo dream of publishing a literary journal, and Mary soon finds herself part of their milieu, guided mainly by her attraction to the dark and brooding Jack. She discovers, however, that the two live their lives according to the rules of hipness: anything manufactured after 1966 is taboo, dark shades must be worn at all times, and free love reigns supreme. The three go on the road, of course, traveling to Brighton, where their m‚nage ... trois becomes increasingly complicated and emotionally explosive, culminating in Neal's mysterious disappearance. On the insistence of Neal's superstitious, I Ching-obsessed mother, Mary and Jack-now angry at each other-make a pilgrimage to the United States to scatter the ashes of Neal's dead cat and thereby hasten his return (per Mary's reading of the I Ching). As the two make their tense drive across the country, they are forced, finally, to shed their poses as they reckon with Neal's disappearance and the messiness of their free-love experiment. Examining the paradox of young people's nostalgia for a period they never experienced, Litt knits together the cynical 1990s and the freewheeling 1960s. His satire is gentle, and the emotional journey of the neo-beatniks is genuinely touching. Into this fun, fast read, Litt manages to pack remarkably rich characters and crisp social commentary, a considerable achievement.
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