Wheeler’s The Conjunction is the lost Booker nominee. Never published in paperback, it will cost you roughly $2000 on Amazon.com. A novel that was shortlisted for the Booker that was never published in paperback: the idea seems staggering now, when a longlisting for the Booker will guarantee a surge in sales. But the Booker was not always the behemoth it is today, some books just slipped through the cracks.
Or so I thought.
I ordered the book through my local library. YES THAT IS RIGHT KIDS, YOUR LOCAL LIBRARY CAN GET ANY BOOK YOU WANT. JOIN YOUR LIBRARY. USE IT OR LOSE IT. The inter-library loan cost £3, saving me almost $2000. It was a saving well made. The Conjunction didn’t slip through the cracks. History hasn’t forgotten it so much as hidden it. It is a nasty little book.
Or at least what I read of it was.
I know I said I was going to read all of every book, but…
The nineteen-seventies were a different time. I know that. And while I still see evidence of the silly, ignorant, blinkered perceptions that some people hold of other people, who are slightly different to them, the national reaction to Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony, and the joy that most of us felt at having those two magical hours presented to the world as a picture of what it means to be British, does make me feel we are near the end of a long road, that the seventies are gone; that despite dickheads like the EDL trying to bankrupt poor towns by continually forcing councils to use council tax money to police marches instead of providing essential services that would help to build stronger communities, Britain is a tolerant country that celebrates its diversity and its eclecticism.
phew, long sentence
What I am trying to say is; a book that had lines in it like:
“As the reader will observe, there were aspects of Dr Jabwal’s thinking that were mere childishness.”
“In the Hindu, more than the Englishman…”
The second half of that sentence is irrelevant. This is end-of-Empire school of writing. This is an author writing about India but not really knowing any more about the country than what he picked up when he was stationed there (I’m guessing, I cannot be bothered to actually research this).
Let me tell you a secret. Modern literary theory will have you believe that we should be very wary of confusing the narrator of a novel with its author, and we should be, but: nine hundred and ninety nine times out of a thousand, the narrator of a third person omniscient novel is the author.
So, in conclusion, the seventies were a bit racist, Terrence Wheeler was probably a bit racist, The Conjunction is definitely a bit racist, and I’m not reading the rest of it, so there.