Wednesday, 3 November 2010

In praise of e (squared)

To be frank, I’ve had a bugger of a time at work recently, and one of the few things that have kept me sane has been a novel: e squared, by one of my favourite contemporary writers, Matt Beaumont.

It’s a sort of sequel to e, which came out in 2000 and was notable for being (to my knowledge, at least) the first novel written entirely in emails. Set in an advertising agency called Miller Shanks, it skewered that world deliciously – and e squared repeats the trick, with bells on. The scene has moved to another agency, Meerkat360, which is so bleeding-edge that the Creative Director hires an in-house hairdresser, clown and busker. Some of the characters from e reappear, and as the technology has moved on, so have the narrative modes: alongside email we get text messages, blogs, instant messaging and online news reports.

I’ve always loved satire, and Beaumont is a superbly scurrilous satirist. Almost every one of the 20-odd main characters is deeply flawed, and blissfully unaware of it. It’s no accident that the nearest thing the book has to a hero is a gambling addict who alienates everyone who cares for him – but his saving grace is that he knows he’s an idiot, unlike those who surround him.

All Matt Beaumont’s half a dozen novels are excellent, but the last couple have been a shade more thoughtful. e squared, though, is unashamedly frivolous and hilarious. As someone who works in the media (though not in advertising, thankfully), I’ve enjoyed being reminded how ridiculous what I do for a living actually is.

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