Novel extract – Paul

Posted on August 2, 2010 by


I looked at him, at his sensible walking shoes, his concerned broadsheet newspaper, his neat haircut, his too-clear complexion – the results, no doubt, of hours spent in men’s grooming salons and the application of expensive products – and I felt something approaching pity, which is of course only a paper-thin wall away from hatred. I imagined his sickeningly pleasant North London get-togethers with his husband and their friends. Goat’s cheese from Borough Market and organic Chianti (‘You really must try some.’) Their chatter about the evils of war, Bergman at the Renoir, books half-read, documentaries half-watched, while all the while they were buckling under the weight of an assumed liberality, or reasonableness, which none of them really believed in, but worked hard to fake, copying those fictional North London liberals they had seen portrayed at the theatre and on television. I felt a surge of true hate, and also of superiority. At least I had never tried to pretend. I had been true to myself, to my apathy, and I lived with the consequences, which were poverty and low status. But at least I hadn’t lied, pretended to give a shit in order to climb up the greasy ladder to nowhere – a waste land of coffee shops on Sunday afternoons, poetry readings in bohemian wine bars, subtitled Eurasian cinema at the South Bank, Mark Rothko at the Tate Modern. I could see conflict seared into his face, and it was a conflict born of falsehood, of years of pretending.

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