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One Three One: A Time-Shifting Gnostic Hooligan Road Novel

  10/02/2012       BartLiza2      0 Comments

by Julian Cope

Category: Environment

  • Type: Paperback
  • Pages: none
  • ISBN: none
  • ASIN: 9780571270439
  • Edition Language: English

This is a weird book, an extremely weird book — as one would expect from Julian Cope, one of Britains consistently weirdest men since his emergence from Liverpools post-punk scene as The Teardrop Explodes frontman. Unfortunately, weirdness (general weirdness, druggy weirdness and Neolithic weirdness) only goes so far in terms of making a novel great, or even good. Youll probably come across words like Quixotic, Rabelaisian or Pynchonesque in reviews of One Three One, but for me the true comparison to be made is with Douglas Adams — the Douglas Adams of Dirk Gentlys Detective Agency and The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul. Only not as good.One Three One has been hyped to the stars in certain sections of the press, especially the likes of The Quietus and The Guardian and I had been very much looking forward to getting stuck into it. As someone who had read and enjoyed Copes brace of autobiographies (Head-On and Repossessed) and valued his tome on Stone Age monuments (The Megalithic European) to such an extent that I gave it a mention in my own The Grotto, I was all set for a few nights of fresh, scintillating, off-the-wall use of language, wry and kooky observations and a hybridization of two of Copes acknowledged areas of expertise — rock n roll debauchery and the Megalithic. I am disappointed to write that the relish I experienced upon turning on my Kindle and clicking on One Three One very quickly wore off. Regrettably, the novel failed to live up to both the hype and my own expectations. One Three One is something of a damp squib and very much the least of any of Copes books that I have read.For me, the book fell down on many fronts. Style-wise, the druggy loon, first-person narrative voice employed with such success in the autobiographies fell very short of being able to carry an entire novel. After only a few pages, the narrator, Rock Sections, post-punk, drug-casualty verbal ticks began to grate. Enthusiasm or delight was expressed with phrases such as Come on everyone or Oh yeah and I began to dread the appearance of these at the ends of paragraphs. Do you follow, folks! Yeah! Get with it! The use of language during the passages where Rock Section is transported back in time ten thousand years was also annoying; think sub-Wicker Man mixed with classic Hollywood epic dialogue. There were also some clangers (was the flu around in the Stone Age and even if it was would it have been called as such?) and the use of relatively modern names for rivers and cities (the Dee, Paris, Oslo, Aberdeen) added to the irritation I felt while reading these chapters.The plot is thin and not particularly credible. The fact that Rock Section can slip through portals in Neolithic monuments and travel back in time ten thousand years caused the least problems for me, which gives an idea of how strange the rest of the story is. The plot goes something like this: Rock Section was in a band in the late 80s–early 90s. These guys were mixed up in football hooliganism. They travelled to Sardinia during Italia 90 to follow England and cause a bit of argy-bargy. Bad things went down. Rock Section and his firm were kidnapped. A couple of them never made it back home. In the novels present (2006) Rock Section travels back to Sardinia in order to come to terms with his past . . . and thats about it. Theres something of the road trip mentioned in the books by-line to the plot — quite a lot of driving and classic cars. Some characters are met along the way, mostly oddballs and kooky types, of course. Theres a love interest. Rock Section travels back in time every now and again . . . and there you have it.The late eighties–early nineties crossover world of the baggy musical movement and football hooliganism was clumsily described. There was much whimsy and not enough meat on the bone for me to buy into this sub-culture. The Italia 90 World Cup, Hillsborough disaster and a Dutch white supremacist movement are dragged into the mix, but there is an incoherence to all this that never made the plot or world of One Three One ring true. But the present-day action is set on Sardinia. That must count for something. Everyone loves Sardinia, you might say. Well, from the manner the novel is written, where the action in Rock Sections head is more important than physical descriptions of the island, I never got a sense of Sardinia. Road trip One Three One might be, but Cope is no Kerouak or Steinbeck at bringing a route such as 131 to life.Finally, I found the characterizations in the novel just slightly better than one-dimensional. Characters are given attributes and they perform actions but how we see them and what they say is all through the filter of Rock Sections narrative. Section is utterly self-centred, onanistic even, and shows little interest in people or their well-being. He may even be a sociopath. Thus there is little time spent describing other people, getting into their heads and underneath their skins and all the characters outside of love interest, Anna, blend into one. Particularly bad is the reported speech. No one character can be differentiated from another based on their speech, except maybe Anna, who speaks in mildly broken English.Perhaps Im missing the point here and I just dont get Julian Copes/Rock Sections voice. Perhaps the humour in the book flew above or below my particular radar. I get the impression that the kind of people who see genius in Terry Pratchett will probably be impressed by this novels ramblings, rantings and ravings. Perhaps as a teenager I would have loved One Three One. Right now, though, my overall verdict is: disappointingly poor.

Environment

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