Down and Out in Shoreditch and Hoxton by Stewart Home

This is an extended beat essay on the history of female sexual transgression in literature and society with a discussion on who the real Jack the Ripper may have been. The creation of the protagonist is merely a glove puppet for Stewart Home’s reflections. He is obviously interested in transgressive literature and art and not particularly interested in crafting full length works of fiction.

He reminded me a lot of Will Self, i.e. an articulate cultural theorist with no particular talent for characterisation. Why has he chosen the novel form for his writing? He calls it an anti-novel which is just a cop out. There is no attempt to create realistic characters or empathic ones or complex ones. Opinions are best left for journalism. Stories are not about judgement they are about empathy. When the female protagonist writes pejoratively about Dickens say, or JG Ballard, you clearly see Stewart Home holding the glove puppet and you even see his mouth moving. Like Will Self, there is a good deal of sniggering school boy humour here. The old prostitute who gives good head with her false teeth out is a good example of this jejune voice.

He is obviously in the shadow of William Burroughs without any of the talent of William Burroughs. As disjointed as Naked Lunch is, there are writerly highlights on every page. Home’s writing style is pedestrian at best. Half the book is just a list of names of prostitutes and their brief backstories. None of these characters ever appear again and they have no role in the story. In any case, they are ‘types’ rather than complex characters. Abused daughters, druggies, alcoholics etc…

None of this convinces (one senses this is not his intention but it still begs the question, why do it then?). He has some interesting things to say but for me, he has chosen the wrong form to express his opinions. I got the feeling reading this that I get when reading Self or Amis. Namely, stick to non-fiction.

Michael Stewart


About headspam

I'm a writer from Salford, now based in Bradford. I've written for theatre, radio and TV. And the following books: King Crow (novel: Bluemoose Books); Couples (poetry: Valley Press); Cafe Assassin (novel: Bluemoose Books); Mr Jolly (short stories: Valley Press) Author page:
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2 Responses to Down and Out in Shoreditch and Hoxton by Stewart Home

  1. I may have to re-visit ‘The Naked Lunch’. When I was 13, I thought it was fascinating, but I had started to go off it about a year later. It struck me as belonging to that rare category of book in which the most important part of the text is the introduction.

  2. Michael Stewart says:

    Well, I’m not sure it is worth revisiting, but let me know what you find. My point was that Burroughs can write and the book, although virtually incomprehensible, is full of original phrasing, striking imagery, vibrant language etc…

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