Toby Litt's third book is all bullet entry wounds, violent emotion and forensic detail. Corpsing works as a deconstructed literary thriller, a very knowing examination of the pathology of the genre. It starts off in the traditional way, with a death. Jean Luc Godard said 'all you need for a good story is a girl and a gun.' In Corpsing the girl is Lily, a beautiful actress and the ex-girlfriend of Conrad, the narrator. The gun is in the hands of an assassin, dressed in bike courier clothing who looks like "a vision of the future--a future where everyone is concerned with keeping their bodies fit and dodging between fast new technologies of damage." He fires at Lily and Conrad as they eat dinner at fashionable Le Corbusier, a restaurant which resembles an autopsy room in the morgue: "the tables are a frosty-looking aluminium, the walls are half mirror, half stainless steel". Six bullets later and the damage is done, Lily is dead and Conrad is nearly so.
The dissection really begins when Conrad comes out of hospital and begins investigating Lily's murder, his own near miss. The plot unfolds in short, sharp chapters, keen as knives. Toby Litt uses Conrad to provide an extra twist to the usual serpentine story. He has a morbid interest in the clinical details of the results of his injuries. He, like Litt, is very aware of the etiquette of cool violence, a cultural culling that takes in J F K succumbing to the "magic bullet", Bonnie and Clyde, The Godfather, and, of course, Reservoir Dogs. Corpsing is an interesting critique of our fondness for violence and death as entertainment, while cunningly providing us with all the gory details, the damage done. Clever, but a little soulless. --Eithne Farry [via]