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No one satirizes consumption so savagely and completely as Geoff Nicholson. In his 10 earlier, fiendishly funny chronicles of obsession, Nicholson has stuck it to foot fetishists (Footsuckers), VW Bug freaks (Still Life With Volkswagon) and compulsive shoppers (Everything and More). Now Nicholson goes after the entire city of London.
In typical Nicholsonian style, Bleeding London is full of seemingly incongruous plot lines. First there is Stuart London, an improbably named tour company owner whose London-mania compels him to walk up and down every single street in the city. Then there's Mick, a smart small-town thug whose stripper girlfriend informs him that six rich cretins raped her in a London strip club. Mick proceeds to scour the city he considers to be a version of hell for the offending parties. We also have Judy Tanaka, a half-Japanese, half-British woman who is possessed by a deeply felt urge to have sex in every part of London. The three disparate story lines crisscross like irrational foreign subway lines, taking the reader on a wild, unsettling ride, from posh new money tackiness to filthy public toilets in the slimiest of slums. Layers of hidden history are haphazardly revealed -- Pepys' journal figures in, as do Jack the Ripper, Joe Orton, Marianne Faithfull and dozens of other famous and infamous pilgrims.
The three lines become entangled when Judy gets hired as a guide for Stuart's company, has a high-exposure affair with the boss, is dumped, then winds up helping Mick with his search in exchange for Mick exacting revenge for her broken heart. There's plenty of Nicholson's usual antipathy for the rich, but also a surprising amount of atypical brutality. Mick violently humiliates each of the six creeps in different, very personal ways (the restaurant reviewer is assaulted with food, the marine enthusiast's boat is sunk with him handcuffed to the wheel), and as we slowly learn more of his girlfriend's ulterior motives, the funny-despite-the-awfulness punishment loses much of its cathartic appeal.
Still, Bleeding London hurtles forward like few literary novels, astonishing in its reach and frenzied humor, only slightly disappointing when it comes to its anticlimactic denouement. Like its subject, Bleeding London is a wild mess of high and low, kitsch and polish, and absolutely worth a visit. -- Salon
The power of an ancient city to seduce is demonstrated in the lives of three vividly particularized characters: Mick, a bright, laconic tough from Sheffield who has come to London seeking revenge on a group of men who, he believes, raped his stripper girlfriend; Judy, a young woman of mixed parentage (her father is Japanese, her mother British) attempting to make this city she obsessively loves her own; and Stuart, the urbane, self-satisfied head of an agency that offers an exotic array of walking tours. Anxious to find some new way to demonstrate his idiosyncratic mastery of London, Stuart hits on the idea of walking every one of its streets, a project that—if he walks ten miles a day, five days a week—should take some three years. Mick, meanwhile, who at first has a provincial's undisguised dislike and distrust of the vast, chaotic city, finds himself disturbed and intrigued by it as he goes in search of his miscreants. These parallel quests, each increasingly quixotic, allow Nicholson to poke satiric fun at London's citizens, catalogue some lively fragments of its history and geography, and anatomize the ways in which we make a city our own. In the end, Mick finds himself liberated by the possibilities of life in the city; Stuart, made arrogant by his supposed mastery of it, is grimly humbled; and Judy hits upon a weirdly transcendent way of making herself permanently one with it. The plot takes a while to build up speed, and the unfiltered blizzard of facts about London is sometimes dizzying, but Nicholson's satirical eye, his obvious love of the city, and his skill at fielding odd, convincing characters overcome any problems. A delightful fiction, and a wonderfully exasperated love letter to a great city.