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The Act of LoveThe Act of Love by Howard Jacobson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wonderfully selfish, sexy and bitter about a book-dealer, Felix Quinn, and his wife’s infidelity. Felix’s reactions to his wife’s lover are both understandable and his theory of jealousy are both difficult and true. Any kind of profession of love without jealousy is implied to be a simulacra of love.

The obsessive nature of love and sex is described in brilliantly uncomfortable prose. There is a savagery to the writing which is largely absent from novels featuring the love lives of middle-class, educated people. Quite often, the sex life is absented for the love life completely, and it is refreshing to find a book that is not afraid to shun this approach.

I am a late convert to Jacobson but he leaves a forceful impression on the page. His men and women are not of the kind that seek to cleanse and simplify their lives. They are messy drinking, fucking, smoking kind of people who screw up and get angry and jealous. They have as many unpleasant traits as they do ‘normal’ ones that we may recognize. Their appeal lies in the fact that they choose to live selfishly and engage with negative consequences of their existence with the same legitimacy as they do the positive and chosen paths of their lives. I say negative, they are not presented as such. Instead, they are the normal part of life and cannot to be avoided.

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