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What if John Self and Lou Ford had a merger?

March 25, 2012 23 comments

Get Me Out Of Here by Henry Sutton

Matt, I know all this. You’ve told me countless times, but as I’ve said before, and as plenty of other people have said too, including Mum – she was always saying it – you’re not the easiest person to live with. You’re obsessive, you get paranoid, you can have a horrible temper, made worse by drink, half the time you live in a fantasy world, and you’re a snob, too. You don’t help yourself, Matt. It’s weird but you also have this horrible, macabre side to you – part of your overactive imagination? I don’t know. You should have done something that required a little more imagination. You should have been an artist. But you do tend to think the worst of every situation, and then you try to make everyone else think the same. It’s scary. I’m not surprised it didn’t work out with Fran.’

I wanted to read Get Me Out Of Here after reading Guy’s review. This was a shattering book. The more I progressed in my reading the more I was screaming internally Get Me (Emma) out of here (Matt’s head). As you can guess, it’s a first person narrative. Matt Freeman is a totally unreliable character. He’s a Londoner who lives in a complex designed by Chamberlin, Powell and Bon, silly admirers of Le Corbusier, responsible for hideous post-war suburbs in France. Matt got on my nerves right from the first pages when he makes a fuss about his spectacles in the optician’s shop. He’s obnoxious, obsessed with luxury brands and treats awfully the poor sales clerk. He supposedly works as an independent ???, maybe marketer, I never quite figured out what his profession was supposed to be. He’s obsessed with leaving for North Korea, which is in itself a proof of his insanity. He despises other people and feels superior to everyone:

I couldn’t put up with this for a moment longer. It wasn’t just public transport that was insufferable, it was the public, too.

Nice man, right?

At the beginning, he sounds picky but rather normal. The more you read, the more you discover his true self, the more you want to run away from him. The novel unravels his talent for lies, his violent relationships with women, his total lack of interest for others. Here is Matt, describing his supposed best friend Roger:

She and Roger had two hideous, red-haired children. One, in theory, was my godson. I still hadn’t got his christening present engraved. In fact I couldn’t remember where I’d put it, or what it was. He was possibly six or seven. I had no idea when his birthday was.

He has trouble remembering his sister-in-law’s name and of course doesn’t know the names and ages of his nephews. He only thinks of himself, never questions his perceptions and always sees other people’s reactions in a twisted way.

Why this post title? John Self is the hero of Money by Martin Amis. Matt is also obsessed with money, wealthy people and also fosters unrealistic career prospects. He’s attracted to the same kind of women. Lou Ford is the hero of The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson. Matt is as psycho and disturbing as Lou, they are both highly despicable characters.

Sutton is excellent on the plot side and the style side. The book slowly reveals evidences of Matt’s craziness and the style is cutthroat but dark funny:

This was a chunk of Westminster barely touched since the days of Orwell. It made Bobbie’s flimsy abode look like a designer penthouse. Just being at Suze’s made me feel down and out.

The only thing I regret is all that brand quoting, I missed some references, my interest in fashion being null. I supposed they were all expensive clothes and equipment. I’ve been to London only once and I remembered enough of the tube to follow Matt in his underground wanderings but it’s true this book must have another flavor for a Londoner than for a foreigner.

Henry Sutton is an excellent writer but I didn’t have a nice moment reading his book. It took me a lot of time, being in Matt’s head was really uncomfortable, claustrophobic. In a way, Sutton is too good a writer, Matt invaded my consciousness to the point I had to put the book down and rest. After this, I needed light and funny.

PS: Another review by Kevin here

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