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An ambitious fiction debut filled with lust, longing, and moral depravity.
The tales in Too Beautiful for You, Rod Liddle’s dazzling debut, sweep readers into the lives of characters whose sexual frustrations and deviant desires lead them to the very edge of acceptable behavior—and sometimes way beyond.
In a mischievous, macabre tale about a man who loses his arm in an accident on the way back from an assignation, Liddle shows just how far a husband will go to hide his infidelity from his wife. Another philandering husband, operating much closer to home, doesn’t let fleeting pangs of guilt curtail his hunger for the sexual treats proffered by his mother-in-law. Bizarre happenings are not confined to the sexually adventuresome: one woman notices that her skin is hardening into a sort of insect carapace after she uses a depilatory gel; a suicide bomber is forced to acknowledge his abysmal failure as a terrorist when he tries to blow up a Jewish art gallery with a package of trout; and a man planning to jump out a window finds some of his colleagues all too ready to assist him.
Liddle presents his panoply of misfits and miscreants without passing judgment. The passions they harbor and the acts they commit may be shocking and scandalous, but Liddle shows that these hapless men and women are not so very different from the rest of us. Sharp-witted, sexy, and psychologically astute, Too Beautiful for You breaks through literary and social taboos with style and humor, reminiscent of the early work of Martin Amis.
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ROD LIDDLE is a well-known media figure in Britain. He worked at BBC Radio’s Today program and resigned amid much publicity when his bosses objected to his outspoken column in The Guardian. He is now associate editor of The Spectator, and lives in South London.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
marian sits, hunched with loathing, over her computer terminal as the clock on the wall hits thirteen. Most of the rest of her colleagues--those working today--are out; in pubs and wine bars and dinky sandwich stations, venting grievances over glasses of New World Chardonnay and warm goat's cheese salads. Marian would very much like to be out with them; her stomach is rumbling and she has deep, festering grievances to be divulged along with the best of them. But instead, she must sit and wait for a workman to come and mend one of the large windows in the middle of the office, the ancient metal frame of which will not close properly and which has been wedged into place with a copy of the 1997 International Who's Who, as a makeshift, temporary measure.
This waiting is a task with no official demarcation, and everybody—save for maybe one or two of the middle managers—possesses the intellectual capacity to do it. But Bavins, who on her first day here she mistook for an escaped mental patient, a deeply troubled soul who had, perhaps, wandered inside in search of refuge but who was, in fact, everybody's boss, nervily asked if Marian would mind doing it and left before she could demur.
So she sits there, her stomach grumbling with anger, the Anger of the Just, as the loudspeaker reports the deaths of 165 people in Zurich, where a plane has just crashed into some flats. Hearing this news, and noticing the palpable excitement amongst her colleagues, she wonders when it was that the anger took hold and made the rest of the world, outside this building, seem smaller and of markedly less consequence. She hears people gibbering about Osama and al-Qaeda and she tries to think of the awful fireball approaching and the panic and the noise and the pyrolytic reek of burning aviation fuel and those microseconds of blind terror and all she can concentrate on is the window repairman with his bag of tools and triplicate dockets to sign.
When she first started work here she was eager to be a part of everything, and, although people told her to watch out, it's a poisonous atmosphere, like Mercury, and full of pettiness, rancour and contumely, she dived in with delight. Now, when she arrives for work each morning and leaves the sluggish lift at the eighth floor, she sometimes loses her footing on the bile and gall which seep out from every office doorway.
Eight floors down, Dempsey hunches over his computer terminal and considers which would be the best way of killing himself. By best, he means a method which would allow at least seven people to stop him, including his girlfriend—his former girlfriend, Lucy. Last night he arrived home at, what, three, four? After being told again that it was all over between them—a long, tearful session which ended in him being sick in the driveway of his own home and later crying for long anguished hours on his wife's shoulder. So he looks pretty wrecked now and a numbness has descended and despite all those poor people killed on the Garuda plane, which is what really should be concerning him—that and the fact that those nutters seem to have done it again, and what will happen now?—all he can think of are new and preferably decisive ways to persuade Lucy that this thing between them, whatever it is, can, you know, work.
Or at least be prolonged.
And sort of killing himself is what he comes up with, feeling as raw and woebegone and hungover and unshaven as he does at this moment and seeing pictures of charred remains being separated from blackened concrete, up there on the television monitor, that cold Swiss morning.
You think it would be a big deal, killing himself for Lucy? It would be no great sacrifice, really, he thinks, full of self-disgust and self-pity, tapping the keys on his computer to bring up the revised casualty figures and the latest apocalyptic speculations. He has been, for some years now, expedient in a professional sense. His job, despite the impressive (but meaningless) grade, is an island bypassed by all the currents of work—and indeed precisely designed to be such. His stock, before he started seeing Lucy, was pretty low. But Lucy acted as a sort of surrogate promotion; you could see it in the eyes of their colleagues when they were spotted out together . . . people began almost to take him seriously again. Or semi-seriously, at least. The man who's fucking Lucy Dow! But now Lucy has stopped seeing him eleven times in the last two months, each time more definitely than the time before, and Dempsey can't take it any more, he has used up every ounce of persuasiveness, every trick in the book, to keep them together and he is looking ragged and defeated and absurd. Killing himself, hell, he thinks, it would be a mercy.
Everybody takes Marian seriously, it is part of the democratic nature of the place that secretaries must be afforded respect equal to—what are they called these days?—line managers. So when editorial decisions are taken people ask her for her opinion and everybody goes silent whilst she explains and then it's yup, thanks for your help, Marian, I think that's a valuable contribution. In a very real sense. She was surprised and thrilled by this at first. Nowadays, though, it's different. Nowadays she says, uh, sorry, I'm really not up to speed on that particular issue, or some other equally lame excuse because she hates the quality of the silence as they listen to her thoughts and the nodding heads and the encouraging smiles and the yup, thanks for your help, Marian.
But at first she was thrilled, she was eager to be a part of everything these people did and was astonished they opened their world so quickly for her. There was a vibrant social life to the office and Marian yearned to be a part of that, too; something all too easily accomplished, as it turned out.
Marian picks up the phone and dials Building Services. "Hello. Yes. You're meant to be sending somebody to fix one of our windows. Room 8106. Yes, a window. I rang this morning. Twice."
After a moment or two a woman's voice asks for a reference number. Marian finds it on her memo pad and reads it down the line trying to convey, in the simple recitation of numerals and letters, a sense of unrestrained hatred. And there is a pause again and the woman's voice says the engineer should have been with you ages ago, he was dispatched one and a half hours previously. Marian keeps her voice low and level and with an aftertaste of prussic acid. There's nobody here, nobody to fix the window, send somebody else. Now.
Marian wonders if the engineer is lost in this city of a building, with its slums and suburbs and dark alleyways. Take a wrong turning and you find yourself adrift in one of the service or technology ghettos, a labyrinth of tiny rooms and walled-off corridors, stuffed with mysterious devices, flickering dials and vast computer terminals; or maybe you end up on a whole floor which has been gutted to create a vast open-plan office and you stand there wondering if you're in the same building as the one you know. On night shifts Marian will sometimes wander off down these wide, shabby arterial corridors, with their dismal framed photographs of celebrities grinning back from the grave. She invariably becomes lost and disoriented and absurdly anxious, agoraphobic in the huge building.
The woman tells her she will re-contact the engineer and put him right. Marian hangs up. Around her, people are jabbering excitedly about the jumbo jet and speculating about the al-Qaeda denial and then talking about the dead, all those poor dead people, and are any of them British?—and Marian has only her window to worry about, which makes her feel petty and expendable. She did not always feel like this. Once she had harboured hopes of a promotion, of a job where her colleagues listened to her because if they didn't she'd bawl them out and make them feel terrible, not because it is a democratic office where all views count and must be heard, even those of the fucking secretary.
But promotion now is unlikely, if not untenable; partly because her drive has gone and partly because of Julian's personal involvement with her and the consequent possibilities of conflict of interest.
She wanders over to the faulty window and looks out across the blowsy haze of west London. She sees a jet approaching Heathrow almost level, it seems, with her line of vision and she wonders if it will bank and turn and head for the building and that maybe this is the day, Osama or not, when all planes plough into crowded city centres and, really, just how bad a thing would that be? One of the young producers, a sweet girl with a semi-bob, still in a post-boarding school thrall with the world, touches her on the shoulder.
"Maid Marian . . . I'm off for lunch. Can I bring you back a sandwich or anything?"
Marian turns away from the window. "No, thanks, Cassie. I'm going out too, as soon as this useless bastard turns up to fix the window. If there's anyone left to go out with."
"Fuck; isn't he here yet?" She looks at the window. "Well, I think Julian's in Needles with Chloe and some of the others," she adds, either with grotesque naïveté or out of spite. Marian fixes her pretty levelly.
"No kidding? Well I'll do my best to avoid Needles, then," she says, and turns away, busying herself with a work schedule document lying previously untouched in her in-tray.
Cassie half smiles and walks back to her screen, slightly affronted, and abstractedly scans the latest news wires. She thinks Marian is a difficult nut to crack and doesn't quite know how to act with the woman, whether you should mention Julian or not at all—their fling, or whatever it was, never made, you know, official.
The first thing Marian did when she arrived at the building was look for a flat in the same part of London as everybody else, a sort of skewed triangle centred on Crouch End. But she couldn't afford ...
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Book Description Doubleday, 2004. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0385513089
Book Description Doubleday, 2004. Hardcover. Condition: New. 1. Seller Inventory # DADAX0385513089
Book Description Doubleday, 2004. Hardcover. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110385513089