Land of Hype and Glory

These cartoonlike depictions of grisly violence are ultravivid yet affectless. Despite occasional hints of anguish beneath Conrad's creepy, wiseass veneer, Corpsing is so crowded with kinetic imagery and factual details that any deeper resonances are drowned out in the melee. But the book does effectively evoke the boomtime bustle of late-'90s London, when style magazines like Wallpaper* sprouted like weeds and nearly everyone was scheming to become a "commie"—as in dot.commie.

As glossy and flip as an Anglo Pulp Fiction, Corpsing gets tangled in its own clever surfaces. The Impressionist, stately but substantial, like a Merchant-Ivory production, offers an immigrant's eye view of Britishness (much as White Teeth does), captured at the moment when the stability of that identity collapsed forever. From the dying days of "Rule Britannia" to the vapid buzz of "Cool Britannia," Kunzru and Litt both close their eyes and dream of England.


Hari Kunzru is a storyteller in the mold of Kipling and Dickens.
photo: Ben Murphy
Hari Kunzru is a storyteller in the mold of Kipling and Dickens.

Details

The Impressionist
By Hari Kunzru
Dutton, 383 pp., $24.95
Buy this book

Corpsing
By Toby Litt
Marion Boyars, 374 pp., $14.95 paper
Buy this book

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