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Word Count: 1,251
The bad sex guide Whos Sorry Now Howard Jacobson 326pp Jonathan Cape Whod be a man a woman or a child in a novel by Howard Jacobson I didnt notice any animals getting it in the neck apart from an off-stage cat but that must surely be an oversight because Whos Sorry Now is in its simplest form an extended examination of unhappiness and misery It has by way of philosophical contortion the added complication that some of its characters can only pursue happiness via unhappiness others are merely hamstrung by breeding intellect or disposition skewered by circumstance and served up to fulfil their destiny This is normal a minor character who appears to have sneaked through with a modicum of contentment is tellingly named Dotty On first glance it all appears to be about sex but of course it isnt or it isnt only Marvin Kreitman a middle-aged man with too much tenderness to be called a rake loves his mother his wife and his two daughters Unfortunately for domestic harmony he is also in love with five other women and even worse permanently open to further offers The woman didnt exist before whom Kreitman wouldnt in the blinking of an eye display his genitals we hear although hes not keen on undressing in front of men His endless pursuit of pursuit however has less to do with sexual gratification than with the perpetuation of yearning Kreitman is a man who cannot know happiness unless he is suffering the pain of hope gone begging of thwarted desire and of unbearable loss Quite why this should be so is to put it mildly overdetermined Is it down to his dad a humourless handbag merchant who shamed the boy Kreitman by openly filching keyfobs during warehouse sales What about his mother who envisaged for him a life in which he would never need to touch money on his flawless path to 10 Downing
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