Stars and Bars, by William Boyd

Yet another Boyd book which seems different to any of the other books of his that I've read. The main character is Henderson Dores, who's asked to go to America to value some art-works that are being sold by a rich eccentric.

The book is pretty funny - partly because Henderson's own life is fairly messy: he's juggling an affair with a girlfriend at the same time as trying to win back (and re-marry?) his ex-wife; partly because of the differences between English and American cultural norms which bewilder him as he tries to do his job.

I thought this was good (p45) after Henderson has been for one of his regular sessions where he is trying to learn how to fence with an instructor Teagarden, who practises the "zen" form of fencing.

In the locker room afterwards Henderson and Teagarden towelled down after their shower. Henderson tried not to look at Teagarden’s long thin cock and attempted as best he could to preserve his own modesty. Ever since leaving boarding school he felt ill-at-ease being naked with other men. What made this occasion worse was that Teagarden was the first black man he had ever seen naked, outside of books and National Geographic magazines, and Henderson was concerned not to seem curious. He hummed ‘Nymphs and Shepherds’ quietly and appeared unduly interested in a corner of the ceiling. Teagarden did a lot of unselfconscious walking around, his towel slung about his neck, but eventually put on his underpants.

Also, when Henderson is talking with the rich eccentric, I liked this and kept thinking about it afterwards: the rich guy says that there are "two unchallengeable facts that apply to every human being: we all want to be happy and we're all going to die"

We all want to be happy and we’re all going to die. Wouldn’t you think that if everybody knew that, acknowledged that, things would be different?’

This book gave me no reason to want to stop reading the rest of Boyd's works.

Completed : 18-May-2014

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