It took me a good minute to finish Anthony Powell's second novella. There were a number of reasons for this.
First, I became discouraged by the banality of it all. Knowing that there was no deeper meaning, no great (of even mundane) revelation waiting for me at the end, I swiftly tired of the narrative. I believe I mentioned in my review of 'A Question of Upbringing' that I was magnanimous. Well, nothing much has changed since then - at least, not in terms of my own personal magnanimity. Hence, I'm happy to report that I was content to pass off the relative banality of 'A Buyer's Market' - just as I passed off the relative banality of 'A Question of Upbringing' - as being the consequence of the relative banality of the life of the average upper-middle class English wanker in the early 20th century. But frankly, magnanimity based on upper-middle class English wankery can only last for so long. Sooner or later the silly bastards need a slap around the chops to smarten them up a bit. After all, an arched eyebrow and stiff upper lip might do the job in the clubs and ballrooms of dank old London, but the rest of us find invective and personal abuse delivers the same sentiment with much greater gratification.
Which brings me to my second beef: the sheer wankosity of upper-middle class poms. No, wait - I should apologise, for I've misrepresented the fuckers. They're not wankers, they're pansies. Pussies. Softcocks. Choose you own satisfyingly derogatory term at will, the characteristics of the folk who wander the pages of 'A Buyer's Market' can be easily summarised: pompous, weak-willed, egoistic, and ever so fucking boring.
And yet I felt a certain kinship with the narrator. Nicholas Jenkins deserves a brand of sympathy. His first clumsy attempts to construct himself a relationship which will astonish the ages with the intensity of its love strike a chord (albeit melancholy) and evoke a smile (albeit wry). True enough, I was never in love with an emotionally volatile upper middle class English lass (and if I had been, I would have demanded considerably more pussy than Jenkins ever got) yet there is something poignant about young Nick's hopeless attempts to construct a relationship which is clearly doomed from the outset.
Having said that, Jenkins is not off the hook. I forgot about the pansisity, the pussyism, the softcockery for a moment there. What Jenkins - indeed, every blasted character in this book - needs to do is tell someone to fuck right off. Too often, in the course of conversation Jenkins is confronted with a remark which he finds 'intolerable' or 'absurd' or affronting in some other manner. His reaction? Invariably along the lines of: 'There was no possible answer to such a remark' or 'there nothing one could possibly say in the face of this'.
Ah... yes there is, tiger. Try this one on for size: 'Go fuck yourself!' Or this one: 'Fuck off, cunt!' Evan a simple 'Get fucked!' often does the trick.
But no. Jenkins and all the rest of the timid fools in 'A Buyer's Market' seem so terriby, terribly concerned not to give offence that they're prepared to suppress a welter of rampantly negative emotion, compress it, and spew it back out in an absurdly polite exchange such as this one:
'Please,' she said. 'You must.'
'On the contrary'.
'No, no, absurd.'
'I shall be very cross'.
Let's be frank: no sane person on the face of the planet would contemplate speaking - let alone arguing - in such a fashion. Hence, the translation into real terms:
'Look cunt,' she said. 'Do it'.
'Make me, you fucken whore'.
'I fucken will, cunt!'
'Come on then!'
'Cunt! Cunt! Cunt!'
'Well fucken come on!'
'I'll smash yer fucken head in!'
'Try it, cunt! Just fucken try!'
See what I mean? No wonder Hitler was allowed to run rampant across the continent.