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I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019 and I am now properly retired and trying to write a novel. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Friday, 3 January 2020

"Cityboy" by Geraint Anderson

Perhaps a memoir, perhaps a roman a clef, Cityboy recounts the progress of a young man who started working for a bank in the City of London in 1996, became arrogant, hedonistic and wealthy, fuelling his success with a cocaine addiction and enormous amounts of alcohol, while understanding that he was nothing more than a gambler in a casino whose stake was supplied by others. It is a classic Faustian tale (it starts: “Everybody sells their soul to the devil ... I just decided that I'd get a damn good price for mine.” C 1) except that the narrator manages to escape the hell into which he has fallen. 

He is scathing about his (now former) profession. He and his colleagues lie and cheat and break almost all of the rules; he suggests that it is the system which both allows and encourages arrogance and recklessness and the easing of regulations has led directly to the market crashes. He concludes:
  • Money as the one true God and the Gospel according to Adam Smith became the only one that anyone now listens to.” (C 5)
  • Capitalist economies can only survive if they grow and that requires people to be dissatisfied because only people desperate for material betterment will buy that flashier car or that smarter jacket ... The trick is to make people as unhappy about themselves as possible so that they strive to spend the cash in the false hope that it will make me happy and sexy.” (C 5)
  • Our masters have successfully employed clever propaganda to feed our pathetic obsession with celebrities and so distract us from unjustifiable wars and hideous unfairness of our socio-economic system.” (C 5)
  • We live in a superficial bling bling society that is neither happy nor peaceful.” (C 5)
Yet, throughout, even while describing in remorseless detail his drug habit, his exploitation of friends and women, and his appalling lack of any sort of professional standards, one still roots for him. He is a lad and his misdemeanours are told to the accompaniment of laddish (sometimes nakedly sexist, if one is allowed that adverb in that context) laddish banter:
  • Stress will kill you quicker than a rabbit gets fucked.” (C 1)
  • To say I made a tit of myself would be to insult mammary glands across this planet.” (C 1)
  • Body from Baywatch but face from Crimewatch.” (C 2)
  • The chances of that happening are somewhere between slim and none, and as far as I can see slim left town a long time ago.” (C 2)
  • I didn't just look (and feel) like the living dead; I looked like the dead dead.” (C 3)
These are a very few samples from an enormous potential selection. There are many times when 'laddish' becomes uncomfortably misogynist. And yet ... he portrays himself as flawed but better than others; most importantly, he is the one who analyses the game he is playing as fundamentally destructive to the players and to the economy and the hard-earned pennies of the people who allow these greedy fools to play with their money. Perhaps his epiphany comes when he visits a prison in Bolivia: “In San Pedro money could literally buy you anything, but a lack of it meant you had nowhere to sleep and that you could lose your life at the drop of a hat. It was an existence entirely dictated by unmitigated market forces. There was no welfare state or NHS diluting true ‘dog eat dog’ capitalism here. It was the ultimate untainted capitalist state where the law of the jungle ruled ... and it was horrific. They were four murders a month and anyone without cash lived in a state of constant fear. ... It seemed to me that the elites of Western societies had cleverly ensured that the states we live in had the bare minimum of support mechanisms in place. They had done this so that capitalism would thrive, ensuring that their privileged life continued, but it was also not so unremittingly harsh that an underclass existed with so little hope that they would attempt mass insurrection.” (C 6)

Other great moments:
  • I was talking about some really important stuff like how great I was and he was refusing to participate in this extremely interesting discussion. In fact, he was banging on about some fairly pointless subject - something about how fabulous he was or some such nonsense.” (C 5) The self-obsession of those who have been snorting cocaine
  • They say you make your own luck but sometimes you ain't got nothing to do with it.” (C 6)
  • Watching corpulent buffoons wearing appalling sports jackets actually believing that the fit young totty they’re chatting to at dreadful clubs in Soho with interested in anything other than their wedge would be humorous were is not so tragic.” (C 1)
  • “In the country of the blind drunk, the one-eyed trouser snake is king.” (C 7)

January 2020; 419 pages

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