The most talented author in contemporary British literature

I enjoy my morning walk with my dog, even though temperatures are now dipping below zero here in Montreal, and snow, hail, and wind are expected company every morning. I have been doing this since we welcomed a Golden Retriever in our family 10 years ago. I developped, through the years, some solid friendships with other dog owners whom I meet regularly every morning. These friendships are only restricted to our morning dwellings; we talk dogs, we talk Politics, sometimes, not often, and we talk books. One of these friends is an avid reader. Recently, looking for something new to read, she asked me for advice. I sent her a link to the British author, William Boyd.

I first read Boyd in late eighties when he appeared on French TV with literary host Bernard Pivot to speak about his book, 'The New Confessions'. I read the book as well as others from him. He became, with Vargas Llosa, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Ismail Kadare, one of the few authors my husband and I read compulsively.

My friend finished yesterday her first Boyd novel, 'Brazzaville beach', which happens to be one of my preferred. She is amazed at how critics and media can keep such a great author hidden from the public while the only ones we hear about in British literary circles are the usual suspects, Rushdie, Amis, and McEwan. We compared McEwan's characters to Boyd's and we found that, although McEwan writes beautifully and there is no doubt about it, his characters are dry, flat, snobbish, yes snobbish, and aloof. While Boyd's characters are full of life, raw emotions, humanity, and empathy. Boyd is also extremely funny. My friend told me that she heard Amis on TV last week, don't ask me which TV and which program, I don't watch TV, and that he was snobbish, pedantic, and shallow.

O.K. I know I am doing here gross and savage literary comparisons, but I know that lietrature has to do with identification, beside being concerned by good writing. And frankly, even though we admire McEwan's characters in Saturday, for example, and we would like to reach that stage where we stop caring about each other and we care only for ourselves, like McEwan's characters, we couldn't identify with them, I couldn't. I remember this passage from Saturday when Perowne goes to visit his mother who is sugffering from Alzheimer. This passage should have been the most poignant passage in the book. But nothing happens. The book is entirely flat, the wife's character is flat, everything is flat, except when Perowne has to fight for his ego and his survival. We are invited, and allowed to feel only when Perowne fears for his life and his comfort. perowne has no compassion for others; his mother, those who are on the streets, and yes Baxter. I mean Baxter is a pityful man and yet, McEwan succeeds in making us fear him. And the only deeply human charcater in the book, Perowne's daughter, is neutralised by being rendered vulnerable, literally deprived from her clothes and her revolt, and forced to join her father's fight for comfort and life.

As an antidote to this literature, rush and read Boyd, impregnate yourself with his humanity and the humanity of his characters, and tell me what you think. My advice to you: start with 'Brazzaville beach', then 'An Ice cream war', and probably you are going to read the whole set...Good reading, and please drop me a line if you would like to share your thoughts on this author.

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Since March 29th 2006