Adjustment Day by Chuck Palahniuk review – blood and guts, but no heart

Millennials get their revenge in this violent dystopian satire from the Fight Club author, but where’s the passion?

Chuck Palahniuk’s passionately provocative 1996 debut Fight Club hit a zeitgeist moment in the dying years of the 20th century, channelling the spirit of exhausted consumerism and disaffected masculinity. A wry satire on self-help groups and slacker culture, it was a gloriously acerbic swansong for that fin de siècle spawn we called Generation X. Two decades on and some 14 novels later, a new generation has come of age and found itself in Palahniuk’s telescopic sights: the millennials.

In Adjustment Day the problem with the next crop is its very abundance, particularly the males. America is suffering from a “youth bulge”, a surplus that risks causing civil conflict or worse. The German academic Gunnar Heinsohn warned that all great upheavals in history are due to an excess of young men, and so ...

How to Rule the World by Tibor Fischer review – satire and spleen

Although this monologue from a disaffected TV documentary maker is fast, furious and brutal, there is a sense of desperation to it

Tibor Fischer is a great literary comedian. His Booker-shortlisted debut Under the Frog (1992), a hilarious and moving tale of Hungarian basketball players, established him as one of the most inventive writers of his generation. The novels that followed developed an increasingly surreal comic vision, seemingly intent on finding more and more bizarre ways of making us laugh. In The Thought Gang (1994) a philosopher teams up with a one-armed villain in an intellectual caper story, while in The Collector Collector (1997) an entire novel is narrated by an ornamental bowl.

Related: Tibor Fischer: Better than Amis?

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Jake Arnott: ‘I fear the sack every day from the best job I’ve ever had’

The author on walking London’s streets, siestas and the daily creative struggle Elvis Costello got it right. His song “Every Day I Write the Book” chants that endless circadian repetition: “every day, every day, every day, every day I write the book”. Yet as desperate and maddening as writing can be, it never seems laborious. I’m wary of trying to explain my writing day as I simply don’t see it as a daily routine. I find too much pleasure in it when it’s going well. And the innocuous comment, “You must be disciplined” sounds more like a command than a question. I always say that if it were merely a matter of discipline I’d get someone else to do it. I love the artist Dan Flavin’s retort to being asked about his working procedure: “Work? Work? ... I hate work.” But there surely is some toil to be done. It’s ...

David Bowie: the man who read the world

Jake Arnott has followed all his hero’s literary references, from Shakespeare to JG Ballard, since the age of 11. He traces the eclectic influences on Bowie’s work It’s long been clear that David Bowie’s was a polymath, an artist as much as a musician, that “chameleon, comedian, Corinthian and caricature”, he wrote of in his 1971 song “The Bewlay Brothers”. But what can we make of his literary legacy, of his influences and output as a writer? Related: David Bowie obituary Continue reading...









High Dive by Jonathan Lee review – an atmospheric tale of the 80s

A slow-burning fuse is lit as the manager of the Grand Hotel, Brighton, looks forward to hosting the Tory party conference in 1984

When a Provisional IRA bomb exploded at 2.54 am on 12 October 1984 in the Grand Hotel, Brighton, as it hosted senior delegates at the Tory party conference, it provided a moment of dramatic catharsis in Margaret Thatcher’s prime ministerial career. That she survived the assassination attempt and went on to deliver the keynote speech later that day seemed to prove that the Iron Lady surely was indestructible. And the attack was the Provos’ most audacious operation against the British establishment. “Today we were unlucky, but remember we only have to be lucky once,” their communique quipped in a laconic, Clint Eastwood-style drawl. “You will have to be lucky always.”

This shocking event becomes the focus of Jonathan Lee’s hauntingly atmospheric third novel, though its ...