Utterly Monkey: A Novel

Utterly Monkey: A Novel

4.5 2
by Nick Laird

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Danny Williams didn't mean to be a lawyer, but somehow he is -- and for up to eighteen hours a day. He's well paid, home owning, and twenty-seven but is also overworked, lonely, and frequently stoned. The plan was to leave the troubles of a small town in Northern Ireland for the big city in England, but one evening an old school friend, Geordie, bursts into Danny's


Danny Williams didn't mean to be a lawyer, but somehow he is -- and for up to eighteen hours a day. He's well paid, home owning, and twenty-seven but is also overworked, lonely, and frequently stoned. The plan was to leave the troubles of a small town in Northern Ireland for the big city in England, but one evening an old school friend, Geordie, bursts into Danny's shiny new life. On the run from a Loyalist militia, Geordie brings everything Danny thought he had left behind and dumps it on his doorstep.

With infectious wit and energy to burn, Utterly Monkey is a searing, fiercely funny, and ultimately redemptive novel about surviving an office job, outwitting the bad guys, and, hopefully, getting the girl.

Editorial Reviews

Michiko Kakutani
Part caper movie, part coming-of-age story, part urban satire, Monkey introduces a writer with a wonderfully original and limber voice - a writer who seems able to jump genres as easily as he shifts narrative gears … Along the way, Mr. Laird also gives us a memorable and kinetic portrait of London as a city of dreamers and immigrants, people on the run or on the way up - a city that's "a huge centripetal machine dragging bodies towards it from across the world" and subsuming the "song of one small existence" in the giant and deafening "hum of its engine."
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Laird-poet, former lawyer and husband of Zadie Smith-debuts, lad-lit style, with this sometimes entertaining story of childhood friends whose paths diverged radically and then reconverged. Danny Williams is a well-paid (if deeply unenthusiastic) lawyer at a prestigious London firm; Geordie Wilson, his boyhood chum from Northern Ireland, is "officially an unemployed labourer" who's just showed up on Danny's doorstep desperate for a place to stay. Geordie's in trouble with the Ulster Unionists back home, primarily because he has a sack full of their cash; Danny's been told he needs to go back to Northern Ireland to deal with a corporate takeover. Geordie joins forces with Danny, more out of idle curiosity than a sense of urgency (though the Unionists are planning something nasty). Laird's writing is clear and amusing, and both his protagonists are likable. But their aimlessness impedes the building of any narrative momentum, and the book's climactic scene is as rushed as it is contrived. The novel is well intentioned, clever and occasionally quirky-but the whole feels like less than the sum of its parts. (Jan.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
This is an utterly engaging modern social satire with an unpredictable, violent edge. Danny Williams is a lovable yet flawed 28-year-old Northern Irish ex-pat chained to his desk at one of London's top law firms. Danny and his colleague Albert amuse themselves with sarcastic emails and mild corporate subterfuge. Then Geordie Wilson lands on Danny's doorstep, on the run from vicious Loyalist thugs. Geordie's a childhood friend with whom Danny shares a dark, never-discussed secret, and he's got something the bad guys want. Danny's other troubles begin to pile up: his firm is sending him back home to work on an ugly takeover bid that will result in the layoffs of hundreds of locals, and he can't seem to get it right with his captivating new assistant, Ellen. An excellent exploration of modern relationships, this novel is thick with hip British slang that lends authenticity but may challenge even the above-average Anglophile. Laird, who is married to literary darling Zadie Smith, pulls off his first novel with confidence and style. Highly recommended for all libraries. [Laird's first collection of poetry, To a Fault, will be published in the United States by Norton this year.-Ed.]-Christine Perkins, Burlington P.L., WA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Raise a pint of Guinness to this debut novel of Northern Ireland that combines humor and heart with subversive intelligence. The plot pivots on the relationship of two young men from opposite sides of the class divide, who forged a bond in boyhood and who reunite in London after their lives have taken them in different directions. Danny Williams is an upwardly mobile lawyer at a high-pressure firm. Geordie Wilson, Danny's boyhood Irish schoolmate, has become an unemployed drifter who doesn't know where to turn after he runs afoul of a gang of political hooligans. He seeks asylum with a surprised Danny, who has trouble accommodating this rough-edged reminder of his small-town past within the upscale urbanity to which he aspires. Complications ensue, as Geordie's troubles (and those of Northern Ireland) follow him to London, while Danny's legal research takes him back to his homeland, where he discovers how difficult it can be to disregard the consequences of his work-for-hire. Over the course of the six days detailed within the novel, Danny and Geordie find their lives further complicated by budding romances (or at least sexual dalliances), as their new girlfriends help the unlikely friends explore emotional depths they never knew they had. As Danny stumbles into bed with a woman he perhaps doesn't deserve, Laird perfectly captures the urgency and awkwardness of intimacy between two folks who barely know each other. Having established a reputation as a prize-winning poet (and perhaps best known as the husband of novelist Zadie Smith), Laird doesn't concern himself too much with plausibility of plot, but his keen eye for detail and ear for dialect-along with the empathy he displays for hisdiverse array of characters-give the writing a richness beyond the chance encounters and coincidences on which the novel relies. Of the Nicks who write about young men coming to terms with their cluelessness, Laird is funnier and edgier than Hornby. Agent: Natasha Fairweather/AP Watt

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Utterly Monkey

A Novel
By Nick Laird

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Nick Laird
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060828366

Chapter One

'For God's sake bring me a large Scotch.
What a bloody awful country.'

Reginald Maudling,
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland,
on the plane back to London after his
first visit to Belfast, 1 July 1970

Wednesday, 7 July 2004

Moving is easy. Everyone does it. But actually leaving somewhere is difficult. Early last Wednesday morning a ferry was slowly detaching itself from a dock at the edge of Belfast. On it, a man called Geordie was losing. He'd slotted eleven pound coins into the Texas Hold'Em without success -- not counting a pair of Kings which briefly rallied his credits -- and had now moved two feet to the left, onto the gambler. The three reels spun out into click -- a bell, click -- a BAR, click -- a melon. Fuck all. Geordie's small hands gripped each side of the machine as if it was a pulpit. He kept on staring at the symbols, which again and again represented nothing but loss. Then he sniffed loudly, peeled his twenty Regals off the machine's gummy top and sloped away. Eighteen quid down and they hadn't yet left the harbour.

The boat, the Ulster Enterprise, was busy, full of families heading over for the long July weekend. Geordie bought a pint of Harp from the gloomy barman and slumped onto a grey horseshoe-shaped sofa in the Poets Bar, then sat forward suddenly and took a pack of playing cards from the black rucksack by his feet. He started dealing out a hand of patience. A short man in a Rangers tracksuit top stopped by his table, swaying a little with the boat, or maybe with drink. His shoulders were broad and bunched with muscle. He held a pint of lager and a pack of Mayfair fags in one hand. The other was in his tracksuit top, distending it like a pregnancy. He had a skyblue baseball cap with McCrea's Animal Feed written across it. He looked as if he'd sooner spit on you than speak to you and yet, nodding towards the other pincher of the sofa, he said: 'All right. This free?'

Belfast, east, hardnut.

'No, no, go on ahead.'

The man sat down carefully, like he was very fond of himself, and held Geordie's eye.

'You think we'll still have McLeish next season?' Geordie continued, looking at his tracksuit top.

'Oh aye, I think so, though he's a bit too interested in players and not enough in tactics.'

'You on holiday?'

'Spot of business.'

'Oh right. I'm seeing some friends. You heading to Scotland?'

'Naw, on down to London.'

'Oh aye? Me too. You not fly?'

'Taking a van.'

Geordie paused, to see if the offer of a lift was forthcoming. It wasn't.

'Hot enough today, eh?'

'It'll do all right. Better that than pissing down.'

They talked the usual talk. About pubs and places and discovered that the stranger was the nephew of one of Geordie's dinner ladies. Which was how they swapped names. Ian. Geordie. They played whist and matched pints for the next two hours as the ferry ploughed through the water to Scotland. Just before they got in Geordie went out on deck to clear his head. Outside he shivered and watched the wake turn lacy and fold back into the sea. He felt off. His mouth was dry and the ache in his head suggested that afternoon drinking hadn't been such a great idea. He turned slightly, to take the wind out of his eyes, and Ian was standing beside him, smiling secretly out to sea. Geordie nodded briskly at him and went in to the toilet.

When he came back to the table Ian had dealt the pack out and was in the middle of a round of pelmanism. Seeing Ian concentrating on the cards, crouched forward, intent, just as he had been doing earlier, made Geordie feel suddenly well-disposed towards him.

'You not play patience? It's a better game.'

Ian turned over the Jack of Hearts.

'No skill in that. This', he tapped the back of a card, 'exercises the memory.'

Staring hard at the grid of cards, he turned over a matching Jack, clubs, then placed them both into a discard pile at the side. Geordie said it first.

'Listen mate, I'll be in London for a while later on this week as well, and I don't know so many folks down there. If you give me your number maybe we could meet up for a jar or two?'

'Tell you what, you give me yours and I'll ring you if I'm free.'

'Aye, do. That'd be a laugh. We'll go out and get slaughtered.'

The solicitor Danny Williams was looking in his babyblue refrigerator. His pinstripe grey suit jacket sagged over the narrow shoulders of a kitchen chair. He had discarded his tie and shoes. The room was dim and the only light came from this massive fridge. It was like a UFO opening its door in his kitchen. 'Take me to my dinner,' Danny said out loud in the empty flat, without humour, as he stood snared in the pale luminous strip. An empty jar of mayonnaise sat by itself in the middle of the top shelf, like a judge on his bench. Danny found it difficult to look in his fridge when he was alone. It witnessed his failures. He would often wander round his airy flat, peckish, open it, see nothing he fancied (or could eat without risk of illness) and walk away again. Danny was skinny. The fridge clicked off its light and Danny resolved to make toast, a Saturday visit to Safeway. The doorbell went. He walked down the hall, unslid the chain, and opened his life.

Geordie Wilson was standing on the step. His small frame was silhouetted against the London evening sky. He looked charred, a little cinder of a man. His navy tracksuit hood cowled round a narrow and freckled face and his bagged eyes . . .


Excerpted from Utterly Monkey by Nick Laird Copyright © 2006 by Nick Laird. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Nick Laird was born in 1975 in Northern Ireland. He was a scholar at Cambridge University, and later spent a year at Harvard University as a visiting fellow. The author of To a Fault, a poetry collection, he has received several prestigious awards for both poetry and fiction, including the 2005 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature.

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Utterly Monkey 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was reading this novel after i finished my biology final. I burst out laughing and i got kicked out of the class. That was the first time i have ever laughed out loud from a book. This debut novel from Nick Laird will catch you and will not let go. From start to finish this book is straight outta a Guy Ritchie movie. If you want to be entertained I hope you read this.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Danny thinks his life is pretty much stable. He has a good job in a big company, nice cozy flat and a good reliable car. Everything changes when his childhood friend appears at his door one day and overtakes his apartment as well as his life. The real fun just begins... I though this book was very entertaining and full of comical events. I could not turn the pages fast enough.