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Boxer, Beetle: A Novel Paperback – September 13, 2011
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“A premise as wonderfully outlandish as any we've seen in a long while... oddball and rambunctious... funny, raw and stylish.” ―New York Times
“An ebulliant and thrilling narrative... Irreverent, profane, and very funny. Best of all, [Beauman] writes prose that, like Chabon's, has the power to startle, no small feat in a debut.” ―Publishers Weekly, starred review
“First-novelist Beauman, who is just 26 years old, has concocted a bizarre and funny mystery that is filled with eccentric scholarship... Those seeking something completely different will be amply rewarded.” ―Booklist, starred review
“The story wonderfully mocks eugenics and fascism, while the writing bursts with imaginative metaphors... Quirky, comical, brilliant.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“First novelist Beauman has created a romp across the decades, with quirky characters and a complex, darkly humorous story.” ―Library Journal
“Perhaps the most politically incorrect novel of the decade--as well as the funniest.” ―Sunday Telegraph
“Brilliant… I can only gape in admiration at a new writing force.” ―Daily Mail
“Beauman strides where lesser writers wouldn't dare tiptoe. Maintains a high wire balance between giddy vulgarity, metafiction, and the sadness of being alive.” ―Melvin Jules Bukiet, author of After and Strange Fire
“Witty, erudite… articulate and original…often gobsmackingly smutty.” ―Time Out London
“Frighteningly assured.” ―Independent on Sunday
“Beauman writes with wit and verve.” ―Financial Times
“Prodigiously clever and energetically entertaining.” ―Guardian
“Many first novels are judged promising. Boxer, Beetle arrives fully formed: original, exhilarating, and hugely enjoyable.” ―Sunday Times
“Dazzling…As in P.G. Wodehouse and the early Martin Amis the tone is mischievous and impudent.” ―Daily Express
“A heart-stoppingly creative debut. He snares you with a new hook every page.” ―Simon Rich, author of Ant Farm
“His killer irony evokes early Evelyn Waugh…the funniest new book I've read in a year or two.” ―Independent
“A rambunctious, deftly plotted delight.” ―Observer
About the Author
Ned Beauman was born in 1985 and studied philosophy at Cambridge University. He has written for Dazed & Confused, AnOther Magazine, the Guardian, the Financial Times, and several other magazines and newspapers. He lives in London and is is at work on his second novel. Visit www.boxerbeetle.com.
Top customer reviews
The story entwines two timelines: one of a Nazi-era entomologist and a young Jewish boxer in Nazi Germany, and the other of a modern-day Nazi memorabilia collector with trimethylaminuria, The story is engaging though can bog down a bit here and there. The story ping-pongs between these two lines, which clearly must be related, but we are given only pieces that don't all fall into place until the end. This is a characteristic of another Beauman book, The Teleportation Accident. After reading that book I thought his style was remarkably similar to Neal Stephenson. Another similarity is that both authors send me on frequent visits to the dictionary, although in Beauman's case much of his vocabulary is peculiar to British English and appears that much more arcane to my American eyes. I discovered only later that in an interview with the Guardian that Beauman said, "...my favourite book when I was growing up, for a long time, was Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson....I'm sure that's found its way permanently into my mode of writing."
Another device used a few times is to show one character's point of view leading to an event, then backtrack and show what was happening at the same time to another character approaching the same event. This is a very effective device when you understand what the author is doing, but there is no clear signal that you have backtracked and are now tracing the same timeline from a different perspective. You don't realize until you have reached the event for a second time that you were seeing another perspective, rather than watching the story marching forward chronologically.
Beauman writes with a sense of humor--sometimes dark--in one case causing us to reel in horror at the deep red stain spreading across a man's chest then revealing it was a wine stain.
My only complaint was a bit of a preoccupation with sex, in this case gay sex. I don't object to sex per se but here it's gratuitous as a recurrent theme. The story did explore the complexities of sex and relationships and sex as a form of power and control but it was a sideshow and the characters and plot would have been none the worse without it.
With the death of his employer, we start the long strange story of eugenics and how they collided with the Jewish population of the poor East end before the war. Eugenics was the belief in the perfectibility of the human gene pool by eliminating polluting influences. To Hitler, and others, this meant in large part eliminating the influence of the Jews. In the process, we follow a murder mystery, or two, or thre.
This fictional portrait of the movement paints wry, darkly funny, and deeply cutting portraits of people who spent their days preoccupied in hate . The logic of labeling some genetics as inferior, while maintaining the superiority of the British ruling class because it is the ruling class, is held to the mirror of satire. In fact the movement existed, if not the characters of this novel.
The writing is clever and the characters are held to their consciences in extreme situations. The market in Nazi memorabilia remains in our time. And people like Kevin "sometimes like to close my eyes and imagine Joseph Goebbels' forty third birthday.". This is a strange little book, but one that carries the reader to different worlds.
Beauman's writing is witty and clever, with plenty of acrobatic similes and metaphors. I found the ending to be nearly as trivial as the lives of the characters portrayed, so I felt a little cheated (there was plenty of drama, don't get me wrong. It's just that none of it was believable). If you like a big Hollywood ending though, you won't be disappointed.
My own favorite pearl of wisdom in the book - look for the fable of Jacub the Murderer who learned about human nature and divine nature the hard way.