Wednesday, 27 February 2013

The Teleportation Accident

History happened while you were hungover.
When you haven't had sex in a long time, it feels like the worst thing that could ever happen to anyone.
If you're living in Germany in the 1930's, it probably isn't.
But that's no consolation to Egon Loeser, whose carnal misfortunes will push him from the experimental theatres of Berlin to the absinthe bars of Paris to the physics laboratories of Los Angeles, trying all the while to solve two mysteries: whether it was really a deal with cosmic evil that claimed the life of his hero, the great seventeenth-century stage designer Adriano Lavicini; and why a handsome, clever, charming, modest guy like him can't, just once in a while, get himself laid.
I am a sucker for beautiful covers and Ned Beauman's The Teleportation Accident happens to have a cracking cover.  When I finally managed to stop staring and open the book to read the first page, I was worried. Was Beauman's second novel going to be a verbose waffle, trying too hard to be what a Man Booker Prize longlisted book should be?  He certainly had me going for a while...and then it became funny.  Not small laughs either, but proper out loud, I have to repeat what I've just read to everyone I can find, funny.  Beauman had me hooked at 'Tassels on Tassels on Tassels on Tassels' and my worries about not understanding a thing melted away. 

That's not to say that The Teleportation Accident is just a barrel of laughs.  It's frustratingly bonkers and that's down to the lead character.  Loeser is pretty much a loser.  He could have been an Ian McEwan character, for he is totally, unequivocally selfish.  He's completely oblivious to events outside of his own small world, including the impending WWII, and only cares about his ever decreasing sex life.  Loeser only starts to look like a better human being when he is in the company of the other demented characters that populate this weird world. 

There's a haphazard nature to the book, in the way that Loeser keeps falling into trouble, but at the same time Beauman makes sure that everything that happens stays interconnected and relevant to the core story.  I also found that just because the setting and the year changes, it doesn't mean the story or Loeser will, turning The Teleportation Accident into a bizarre version of groundhog day. 

The ending, while wrapping everything up, is still a bit WTF?!? but after I finished I realised how glad I was I kept reading even though I wasn't keen on the first few pages.  It makes me wish that more of this sort of fiction would find a way onto the Man Booker Prize longlist/shortlist each year, proving that intelligent reads don't always have to be uptight and dreary.

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