Satsuma Sun-Mover

This debut release from a British publishing collective is a whimsical bildungsroman about an unusual young man. Theo Fintwhistle is a skinny chap in a top hat, a philosophical genius able to tackle big problems with calm logic. He is in his element at Cambridge University, pondering a blank page in the library or witnessing his more rambunctious friends pull philosophical pranks. When a disagreement between the Hegelians and the Positivists erupts into civil war, Theo flees the country and eventually falls in with some guys who hope to achieve world peace by creating the perfect drug.

The story moves from topic to topic, fuelled by questions of physics and logic and, later, questions of ethno-botany and particle acceleration. The strongest section is the extreme but loving satire of academia, which reminded me of the way Max Beerbohm skewered Oxford over one hundred years ago. In Satsuma Sun-Mover everything ripe for ribbing receives a sharp elbow, whether it’s earnest scholars, stoned Rastafarians or over-zealous police.

Green’s prose is florid and dense: “Theo had never jammed before but felt having fled the FBI, taken seven cubes of liquid acid and traveled at 600,000 mph in the fifth dimension it was about time he pushed the boats out and tried to play a bit of unscripted music.” In such a creative book it is disappointing and unoriginal that Theo’s exposure to a new world comes through drugs.

The book features sporadic black and white drawings and is billed as an illustrated novel. I was sorry there weren’t more illustrations to add both beauty and humour, not to mention break up the rather small and crowded type. Satsuma Sun-Mover is a philosophical adventure about being yanked from the ivory tower, but as the story progresses it becomes a slightly tedious journey. (Kris Rothstein)

by Adam Green, £7.68, 194 pgs, Lazy Gramophone Press, 11 Belsize Lane, London, NW3 5AD, UK, lazygramophone.com


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