David Szalay's extraordinary debut novel is set in the alcohol-sodden, materialistic, insecure and increasingly sham world of a telephone salesman. The salesman in question is Paul Rainey, a forty-year-old functioning alcoholic on anti-anxiety medication who commutes into London every day from Hoveâ??where he lives with his partner, Heather, and her two childrenâ??to sell advertising space in non-existent trade publications. Perceiving dimly through a fog of psychoactive substances his own dissatisfaction with where his life is goingâ??he only wishes there were something to be done about it. And 'something' seems to fall into his lap when an apparently chance meeting with Eddy Jawâ??an old friend and fellow-salesmanâ??leads to a pitch and the offer of a new job. In fact, Eddy says he has jobs for everyone on the sales-team Paul managesâ??or those of them who are up to it. One who is Inot/I up to it, Eddy insists, is Murray, Paul's lunchtime drinking partner, known to Eddy from the old days when the three of them worked together. Paul half-heartedly tries to change Eddy's mind on this, without success; he does not, however, allow any pangs of conscience he might feel to prevent him from signing on the dotted line. Unfortunately, Eddy's offer turns out to be as insubstantial as the publications Paul sells onâ??and suddenly finding himself out of a job, and overwhelmed by a sense of moral nausea with his sales-driven world, he seeks a new life first as a gardener, and, when that fails, on a supermarket nightshift. Heather, however, is unimpressed and starts an affair with the neighbour, Martin, a manager at the same supermarket. When Paul finds out about this, his plot to destroy Martin sets in train a series of events which ultimately takes him back to the sales-floor. Critics often lament that the world of work is rarely treated in British fiction. ILondon and the South-East/I answers that need triumphantly.
- Publication Date:
- 03 / 03 / 2008