Book review: The Fate of Fed Beasts by Guy Ware - a satisfying feast

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 April, 2015, 7:11pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 April, 2015, 7:11pm


The Fat of Fed Beasts
by Guy Ware
Salt Publishing

Every so often a novel comes along that makes me suspicious it has not so much been written by an independent mind as reverse-engineered in order to make me say "brilliant" as I read its final words.

Well, this is one of them.

The cover promises the book to be "about money, work, love, redundancy, crime, the afterlife AND the importance of well-polished shoes". That tagline may be a little arch, and suggestive of no higher literary ambition than to channel the memory of the late Douglas Adams, but once you absorb the epigraphs from John Milton and Francis Bacon ("I have often thought upon death, and I find it the least of all evils") and have read the first few sentences, you realise you have an intellectual romp.

The story is told by a number of narrators, and begins in an office, as we bump our noses against the circular logic of the opening sentence: "The office is not empty, or it would not be an office."

We do not know what kind of work is being done, although on the second page we get this nugget of information: "Someone commits suicide every 36 seconds. This is a job, not a vocation."

That's a hint, and a few more are dropped along the way, leaving us with the impression that crucial information is being withheld - but we are soon distracted by an account, written with engaging pedantry, of a bank robbery in which it becomes gradually clear that the robbers are police officers, and that at least one person has been shot. Oh, and there is a mysterious older gentleman who refuses to "get down on the f***ing floor" as the robbers order, saying, "I would prefer not to".

But this being a book set in 21st-century Britain, it is not only concerned with the fate of the soul and the nature of narrative, but also with guns, the ennui of daily life, minutely observed trivia and deep and dark matters; filmmaker Quentin Tarantino is in the mix, as well as eschatology, the branch of theology concerned with the end of days. If you liked Tom McCarthy's Remainder, you'll love this.

Guy Ware is also very good at black humour ("I've either got to actually hit someone or find some other way to calm myself down," says the most violent narrator, "because if I go on like this, I'm going to make myself ill"). The result of all this is the best debut novel I have read in years. I am now going to polish my shoes.

The Guardian