As every schoolboy knows, you can fit the whole of England on the Isle of Wight. In Julian Barnes's new novel, the grotesque, visionary tycoon Sir Jack Pitman takes the saying literally and does exactly that. He constructs on the island 'The Project', a vast heritage centre containing everything 'English', from Buck House to Stonehenge, from Manchester United to the White Cliffs of Dover. The project is monstrous, risky and vastly successful. Indeed, it gradually begins to rival 'Old' England and threatens to supersede it. "Both ambitious and serious - real if you like. Dive at those dump-bins." - Andrew Marr, "Observer". "A brilliant, Swiftian fantasy." - "Economist". "There is no more intelligent writer on the literary scene. In this novel, he is also moving. He has written nothing more poignant and enticing." - John Carey, "Sunday Times". "The novel has memorable characters and sentences, but its main impact will be through its penetrating ideas." - John Lanchester, "Daily Telegraph".
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Imagine being able to visit England--all of England--in a single weekend. Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, Stonehenge and Hadrian's Wall, Harrods, Manchester United Football Club, the Tower of London, and even the Royal Family all within easy distance of the each other, accessible, and, best of all, each one living up to an idealized version of itself. This fantasy Britain is the very real (and some would say very cynical) vision of Sir Jack Pitman, a monumentally egomaniacal mogul with a more than passing resemblance to modern-day buccaneers Sir Rupert Murdoch or Robert Maxwell: "'We are not talking theme park,' he began. 'We are not talking heritage centre. We are not talking Disneyland, World's Fair, Festival of Britain, Legoland or Parc Asterix.'" No indeed; Sir Jack proposes nothing less than to offer "the thing itself," a re-creation of everything that adds up to England in the hearts and minds of tourists looking for an "authentic" experience. But where to locate such an enterprise? As Sir Jack points out,
England, as the mighty William and many others have observed, is an island. Therefore, if we are serious, if we are seeking to offer the thing itself, we in turn must go in search of a precious whatsit set in a silver doodah.Soon the perfect whatsit is found: the Isle of Wight; and a small army of Sir Jack's forces are sent to lay siege to it. Swept up in the mayhem are Martha Cochrane, a thirtysomething consultant teetering on the verge of embittered middle age, and Paul Harrison, a younger man looking for an anchor in the world. The two first find each other, then trip over a skeleton in Sir Jack's closet that might prove useful to their careers but disastrous to their relationship. In the course of constructing this mad package-tour dystopia, Julian Barnes has a terrific time skewering postmodernism, the British, the press, the government, celebrity, and big business. At the same time his very funny novel offers a provocative meditation on the nature of identity, both individual and national, as the lines between the replica and the thing itself begin to blur. Readers of Barnes have learned to expect the unexpected, and once again he more than lives up to the promise in England, England. But then, that was only to be expected. --Alix Wilber From the Inside Flap:
Grotesque visionary Sir Jack Pitman has an idea. Since most people are too lazy to travel from landmark to landmark, why not simplify things and create a new England on the Isle of Wight?
Unfortunately, his idea is a huge success, and the resulting theme park threatens to supersede the original. Called England, England, it has all the elements of "Old England" in one convenient location. Wander into the new Sherwood Forest and you may spot Robin Hood and his now sexually ambiguous Merrie Men. Or take a stroll to see Stonehenge and Anne Hathaway's Cottage, enjoy a ploughman's lunch atop the White Cliffs of Dover, then pop over to see the Royals, now on contract to Sir Jack, in their scaled-down version of Buckingham Palace. Every detail has been considered: even the postcards come pre-stamped!
Julian Barnes' first novel in six years is a ferociously funny examination of the search for authenticity and truth in a fabricated world.
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Book Description Picador, 2005. Paperback. Book Condition: New. A slight tan to the page edges. Minor Shelfwear. New: These book are brand-new, unused, unread and in perfect condition. Most items will be dispatched the same or the next working day. Bookseller Inventory # mon0001837761
Book Description Picador, London, 1999. Soft cover. Book Condition: New. 12mo - over 6¾ - 7¾" tall. Shortlisted for the Booker Prize, this "commanding and imaginative achievement" ("Sunday Times, " London) tells the story of Sir Jack Pitman, who seeks to realize a "destination" where replicas of all of England's national treasures--from Stonehenge to Princess Diana's grave--can be conveniently gathered together for tourism purposes. Bookseller Inventory # 023835