Truth sounds to me like a fibrous tear; the rip of words stripping us bare. Syntax burrows into self-consciousness's gossamer gusset to expose the squirming, sacriligious pit below. We shrink at first, closing round the letting-in; then spread 'em, laugh, recklessly relent to the relief of exposure and the fellowship of shame. I've caught a ripper, guv, and he goes by the name of Faulks. Sebastian's elegant, elegaic early romances were all smoke and stockings, furtive fucking, pools of light, pauses and over-the-shoulder glances - tender, careful, birdlike books. 2005's Human Traces marked a new crispness, a sadder, darker depth focussed on madness and the mind. A strangely Russian book, it reminds me of Tolstoy or Chekhov: full of stark landscapes, idealistic and ambitious men, the silences and stumbling inabilities of daily life. His latest, Engleby, goes more intimately into the fragility of memory and the deluded arrogance of the intellect.
Michael Engleby narrates his own awkward, Dostoevskian journey - the horrors of English public education in the sixties, Cambridge university in the seventies, and London journalism in the eighties - before embarking on a slow, inevitable backwards slide through the submerged secrets of his soul. With a Pinteresque compulsion to speak his subconscious, Engleby calmly lays himself before us like a gutted fish - glittering, damaged and threaded with the mercury of panic and death. We see that unglamorous England and her lost generation anew through his glassy, meticulous eyes; it's a breathtaking swansong to our faulty, fallen brains and a cold shot of adrenalin to the heart.
Finishing the book, I emerged onto the southbank and blundered forth like a wounded moll. Dark pools cradled in concrete craters, splashing filth onto my calves, reflecting the Alice-in-Wonderland horizon: the spider, the eye, the great fat finger pointing up to a polluted, preying sky.
Gosh. Steady there, Blonde. Time for a Mills and Boon.