Monday, 6 October 2014

Review: Straight White Male by John Niven

Irish novelist Kennedy Marr is a first rate bad boy. When he is not earning a fortune as one of Hollywood’s most sought after script writers, he is drinking, insulting and philandering his way through LA, ‘successfully debunking the myth that men are unable to multitask’. He is loved by many women, but loathed by even more including ex-wives on both sides of the pond.

Kennedy’s appetite for trouble is insatiable, but when he discovers that he owes 1.4 million dollars in back taxes, it seems his outrageous, hedonistic lifestyle may not be as sustainable as he thought. Forced to accept a teaching position at sleepy Deeping University, where his ex-wife and teenaged daughter now reside, Kennedy returns to England with a paper trail of tabloid headlines and scorned starlets hot on his bespoke heels. However, as he acclimatizes to the quaint campus Kennedy is forced to reconsider his laddish lifestyle. Incredible as it may seem, there might actually be a father and a teacher lurking inside this ‘preening, narcissistic, priapic sociopath’.

STRAIGHT WHITE MALE is a wildly funny and whip smart tale of Kennedy’s transatlantic misadventures. It’s an uninhibited and heartfelt look at the mid-life crisis of a lovable rogue.

Paperback, 384 pages
Expected publication: October 7th 2014 by Grove Press, Black Cat

Terri's Thoughts

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher Grove Press via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.  The expected publication date is October 7, 2014.

This story provided quite the food for thought for me.  The character of Kennedy was perhaps the most unlikeable, self indulgent, self centered, egotistical  & narcissistic character I have ever read.  I simply hated him.  The problem is he was meant to be and this is where I struggled.  Alas what is one to do?  Carry on with an open mind and read the story.

There were moments of humour throughout the story.  One example that comes to mind is the fight on the plane. I also highly enjoyed the moments where Kennedy went head to head with Drummond and literally got in his head.  If he was more of a likeable character I would have been cheering him on as he "one upped" him.

There were also moments of sadness when Kennedy is remembering his sister.  This gives a complex view in to the many layers of Kennedy beyond just the repulsive womanizing jerk he is.  Also the scenes with his mother are touching and show just how damaged he is.

I believe this is a story about redemption however I have to admit I am not really sure it occurs.  In Kennedy, Niven created a character that was so far gone and self absorbed that I almost didn't want redemption.  I wanted him to succumb to his self destructive ways.

This is not going to be a story for everyone.  There is a lot of excessive profanity and sexual content/references.  I for one found it to be too much however I can also see how some may enjoy the humour buried in the pages.  It is always difficult to decide how you feel about a book when the main character is purposefully written to be so obnoxious.  While I can appreciate some aspects to the book it really wasn't for me.  That being said I urge others to form their own opinions on this work as it really is all about personal taste.

About the Author           

Born in Irvine, Ayrshire, Niven read English Literature at Glasgow University, graduating in 1991 with First Class honours. For the next ten years, he worked for a variety of record companies, including London Records and Independiente. He left the music industry to write full time in 2002 and published his debut novella Music from Big Pink in 2005 (Continuum Press). The novella was optioned for the screen by CC Films with a script has been written by English playwright Jez Butterworth. Niven's breakthrough novel Kill Your Friends is a satire of the music business, based on his brief career in A&R, during which he passed up the chance to sign Coldplay and Muse. The novel was published by William Heinemann in 2008 and achieved much acclaim, with Word magazine describing it as "possibly the best British Novel since Trainspotting". It has been translated into seven languages and was a bestseller in Britain and Germany. Niven has since published The Amateurs (2009), The Second Coming (2011), Cold Hands (2012) and Straight White Male (2013).
He also writes original screenplays with writing partner Nick Ball, the younger brother of British TV presenter Zoë Ball. His journalistic contributions to newspapers and magazines include a monthly column for Q magazine, entitled "London Kills Me". In 2009 Niven wrote a controversial article for The Independent newspaper where he attacked the media's largely complacent coverage of Michael Jackson's death.
Niven lives in Buckinghamshire with his fiancee and infant daughter. He has a teenage son from a previous marriage.

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