If you’ve read Money by Martin Amis, ever thrilled at the type of stories where a boorish hedonist reveals an inner wound or wounds, if you’ve wanted someone to rally against the precious, over-analytical denial of the power of story, if you want to see what life could be like as a twice divorced, alcoholic script doctor and award winning novelist who manages to multi-task camming with fans whilst swigging at a good single malt, smoking a cohiba whilst enjoying some ‘personal time’.
Read Straight White Male.
Niven is one of my favourite writers, he rolls his sleeves up, his writing has the palpable sense of enjoyment to it, he gets what makes a good book and he revels in high and low culture. He manages to make you laugh out loud, then by the end of the book, fight back tears. Kennedy, the protagonist, goes on rants that are surgically applied but deliciously transgressive, the kind of man you’d have on your stag night but not at your wedding. His redemption is not obvious, but it feels organic and subtle, and Niven uses him to discuss us men in ways that I think would enlighten a lot of people. It’s a book that will offend some people, but that’s never a bad thing so long as it delights and this book does that in spades.
It’s beautifully written, Niven has a wonderful voice on the page and he writes women beautifully, their aesthetic appeal to men and how they can be handmaidens to self destruction or angels of enlightenment, how they can speak gentle and brutal truth to men. It’s a book of fluids, arguments and ferocious laughter. It is worth your time and attention completely. The last act is breathtaking in how it redeems Kennedy, but I won’t spoil it for you. You might hate it, but for god’s sake, read it.