Leonard Lessing is a British jazz musician whose life has become largely predictable and stagnant. While watching the news one night he recognizes a man who is holding four hostages. The man is Maxie, a former acquaintance who he met eighteen years previously in Austin, Texas. When he meets up with Maxie's daughter Lucy, Lennie must decide whether to sit silently, as he has so many times, or find the courage to go to the crime scene and potentially save lives. A moving and insightful novel, All That Follows proves once again that Jim Crace is one of our most talented and dynamic storytellers.
|Publisher:||Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.02(w) x 7.98(h) x 0.72(d)|
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The hair is unmistakable: old-fashioned Russian hair, swept back from the forehead, thickly and unusually abundant. Leonard stands on the rug a meter from the television screen to see more closely. The video footage is grainy and unsteady, purposefully amateur. The man reading the prepared statement in the curtained room does not mean to be recognized. Indeed, he has masked his face to the bridge of the nose with what appears to be a child’s scarf. His voice, crudely distorted on the sound track, is childlike too. He wears sunglasses, deﬁantly unfashionable E-clips, ten years old at least. The light beam from the camera is lasered at his chest and the lower half of his scarf, so that what little of the face can be seen—the ears, the eyebrows, and the forehead—is underlit and ghostly. But still the hair is unmistakable.
Leonard sits. He stands to ﬁnd the remote console. Sits again. He is breathless, and it is with a shaking hand that he clicks open an on-screen toolbar, pastes a password, enters “Personal Briefcase,” selects Menu, Archive, Album, Austin, and waits for the ﬁle of photographs to download. A hundred or so chattering thumbnails peel out of the icon and tile across the desktop. It is easy to spot the group of images he wants. They are indoor shots, ﬂash bright, and the only ones without an intense sapphire sky. Those days in Texas were almost cloudless. He highlights a single photograph with an archive date of 10-27-06 and expands it. And there they are, the three of them, posing side by side in Gruber’s Old Time BBQ, meat spread out across the table on butcher’s paper, with polystyrene tubs of pinto beans and coleslaw, and a line of bottles—Shiner Bocks. The room is blue with smoke and, he remembers, blue with swearing. He zooms in on the man to the left in the photograph and drags the expanded image up the screen so that it is parked next to the newscast box. It is only a few minutes before the video segment is repeated, and only a few seconds after it begins Leonard is able to freeze an image of the masked face. Now he can compare. He cannot tell exactly what he hopes to ﬁnd.
On the left, photographed without much care or interest eighteen years previously by the girl who cleared tables at Gruber’s, is Maxie, the big-smiled American son of Russian immigrants. That much is certain. His black mustache and beard were sparse and adolescent in those days. His hair, long on top, parted slightly to the right, was swept back over his ears, with just a few loose strands. He looked like the teenage Stalin in that famous early photograph that became the poster for the biopic in the early 2020s, Young Steel, unfeasibly handsome and intense. And on the right, snatched from the newscast, is the masked man, guarding his identity and ﬁlmed by whom? A comrade, colleague, accomplice? Neither of the images is well deﬁned—a frozen, hazy video clip and an overexpanded photo detail, a mosaic of pixels. The evidence is blurry at best. But Leonard is convinced. These two images, separated by almost eighteen years, are of the same man: the same swept-tundra look, the same wind-sculpted brow, the same off-center widow’s peak. No sign of balding yet, or gray. It’s Maxie, then. Maxie Lermon. Maxim Lermontov. On active service, evidently. His head at least has aged extremely well. His head has aged much better than Leonard’s own. Leonard’s hair is gray, a little prematurely. It is not abundant. As (almost) ever, Maxie has the edge on him.
Now Francine has come home. He hears her keys, the two sentinel notes of the house alarm, the impact of her bags on the hall ﬂoor, the clatter of her shoes, the squeak and whine of the lavatory door and the air extractor. He listens while she urinates, ﬂushes, rinses her hands, squeaks the door once more. Should he say anything about his disquieting discovery? he wonders, deciding no. But her not kissing him when she comes into the room, her not even pretending a smile, and him so disappointed, seeing her so pretty, makes him speak.
“See this,” he says.
Again he banks the images and places Maxie-masked and Maxie-young next to each other on the screen. “What do you think? Are they the same man?”
“Probably.” She chin-tucks. Her Chinese teacup face, he calls it. The corners of her mouth are down. It means she is impatient, wants to get to bed. “Who is he, anyway?”
“This is the one”—he points—“who’s got those hostages. You haven’t seen the news?” She doesn’t even shake her head. What does he think a teacher does all day? “This one. . . well, he’s someone I used to know. In America.” Again he chatters thumbnails across the screen. “See, look, that’s me. In Austin. Almost twenty years ago.”
“You eating meat?”
“Boy, I should say. What is that place, an abattoir?”
Maxie is still talking to the camera, though after Francine has gone upstairs to bed the telescreen is muted to a whisper. He is repeating his demands and suggesting a way—some government concessions, some troop withdrawals, safe transit to an airport, a ﬂight to somewhere he won’t specify—for “ﬁnishing this without mishap,” a word so much more menacing than bloodshed, say, or death, especially when spoken behind a mask and dark glasses, especially when deliberately mispronounced and with the slightly comic Yiddish inﬂection that Maxie is using to disguise his voice. Leonard shapes his hands ten centimeters from his stomach, miming his saxophone, and blows a pair of notes, three times, at the screen: Misch-app. Misch-app. Blood-sched.
The same reporter, accumulating coats and scarves as the evening gets chillier, updates every half hour, standing in the street ﬁfty meters from the house of hostages. The “suspects,” who took refuge “randomly” when ﬂeeing through the gardens after what the police are calling “a bungled incident,” have at least one handgun that has already been “discharged at ofﬁcers.” They might have more, she says. The broadcast helicopter shows a suburb darkening, the whirring siren lights of police, ambulance, and ﬁre brigade, and the orange glow of curtained houses. The garden trees and sheds and greenhouses become more formless as the night wears on. The hostages—no details for the moment—are being baby-sat by Maxie Lermon, as yet unrecognized, as yet unnamed.
Leonard ﬂattens the futon and fetches the guest duvet from the cupboard. He will not go upstairs tonight. Francine will already be asleep. Any noise he might—he’s bound to—make (he’s a slightly lumbering left-hander) will irritate her: the light switches, the bathroom taps, the ﬂoorboards and the mattress, the intricate percussion of getting into bed in a modern wooden house with its muttering, living materials. She needs more sleep than he does because she’s never quite asleep. She’s waiting for the phone to go, waiting to be woken by the phone, dreaming of it so persuasively that many times she has sat up abruptly in bed and reached out for the handset in an almost silent room. She lifts it, even, and only hears the dial tone and her own somersaulting heart.
Leonard could pick up the telephone at any time to offer information to the police. He knows he should. Identify the unidentiﬁed. Supply a name. Provide intelligence. But it is already late and Leonard is still trembling. It has been a tense and shocking day, and he is too tired and troubled for anything except retreat. It has gone midnight. Everybody will be sleeping now, or trying to. The police, the comrades, the hostages. Leonard will be sleeping soon, still dressed, on his futon, so frequently his bed these days, the television ﬂickering, Francine unreachable upstairs. Tomorrow he should phone. He will phone. He will never phone. He does his best to sleep.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Apparently, ineffectual middle-aged men exist in the future, too. I'm already tired of reading about the ones in the present (see Sam Lipsyte's The Ask)...Crace sets his book a couple of decades ahead, just enough to sketch a picture of a future that's not so different it will need a deep backstory, but different enough to make the reader think about what might be going on there. He dives back to 2006 as well, though, to draw out the book's political relevance.As far as political relevance goes, he does highlight a number of hot-button issues, but then the protagonist is supposed to be a frustrated (by his own inaction) activist. (Some day I should make up a hot-button issue book bingo: play as you read!) I often find this annoying in fiction, depending on how it's done, but in this case I was far more annoyed by the ineffectual middle-aged man trope. It's like an older, inverted, male version of chick lit or something. The harpy wives/girlfriends in these books make me tired. Crap, everyone's pretty ineffectual, when it comes right down to it.The plot is often obvious, which isn't a crime, but Crace has done so much better than this in the past. The writing about jazz is good, and I don't even like jazz. If you've not read any Crace previously, don't start here.
This is not the Crace we are used to. It is quite a departure and quite good.
Lennie Less is a saxophonist, a well-known jazz musician in the U.K. with lots of fans and lots of credits, who is apparently afraid of everything. Jim Crace presents this quirky, bumpy portrait as its hero lives through the very eventful week in which he turns 50. The narrative contains a highly individual, detailed, and sometimes trying progress to a nevertheless rewarding denouement.The player in question is almost no player at all. He shies from everything. He has taken a sabbatical as our story opens, trying to deal with a bum shoulder that depresses him - makes him feel his age. His wife and stepdaughter have had a violent row and the stepaughter has moved out and severed contact. As a result, his dear wife has lost her sense of humor, her devotion to her husband has taken a back seat, and as Lennie waits and hopes for a renewed closeness, he watches the video news. When his past impinges on his present in the person of Maxie Lermontov, a trouble-making radical who perpetrates a hostage crisis, to protest a summit meeting. His past comes rushing back in, inconveniently, and he perversely cannot stay away from it, or tell his wife or the authorities the truth about it. Mr. Crace constructs Lennie Less of not-very-stern stuff at the outset of his story. And the character's whining and prevarication wore me down a bit. I always returned, however, to take up the story, and now I'm very glad I did. The hero becomes more sensible and more admirable as the book progresses and his family, his admirers, even his legion of fans, grows as a result. Mr. Crace has clearly gained a fan in me. His hero's multi-faceted character reflects a mature, confident author, and an extreme talent at structuring a story. Pick up "All That Follows" and meet the author and his memorable creation.
I loved Jim Crace's earlier book, "Being Dead," and was thrilled when I discovered I had won "All That Follows" from the March ER giveaway. However, I had given up on receiving it after 2 months went by, and no book. Then a few weeks ago it arrived on my doorstep and I couldn't wait to dive in. With all that anticipation when I won it, and then the let down of not getting it, and then getting it after all, maybe my expectations were just too high. Whatever the case, I must say it took me awhile to really get caught up in this book. In the beginning I got bored with all the jazz and musician jargon and just wanted the real story to start. After it got underway, I decided I didn't really like the main character, Leonard, and found him to be weak and lacking. Maybe that altered my mind-set about the whole book.There just seemed to be too many questions in my mind that weren¿t answered in the end. I couldn¿t figure out why Lennie would go along with AmBush, when the only reason he was in Texas was to get back with Nadia, and there was obviously no way that was going to happen and he knew it upon his arrival. What exactly was to be accomplished by AmBush? Why was it was necessary to set the story in the near future (other than the timing of it during the Bush presidency)? Was Lennie¿s little exploit in the end to make up for his cowardice at AmBush? In the end I waited for the big finale, which didn't arrive, and I felt as though nothing of significance had really happened. I will probably try another Jim Crace book, because I find his writing to be superb, but the plot of this one left me as deprived of satisfaction as Lennie's character was of appeal.
Leonard Lessing is turning fifty and the formal radical is in a rut. The passion has left his marriage, his music career is on the skids, and his stepdaughter is missing. When an old acquaintance turns up in the news after taking a suburban family hostage, Leonard has to examine what change really means and how to best bring it about.Jim Crace's novel tells an engaging, but ultimately forgettable story. This is certainly not Crace's best work, but one worth spending some time with, nonetheless.
It was very hard for me to get through this book. Fortuately, it was not very long. I'm not a fan of books that take place in the future, for starters. Leonard, the protagonist, left me cold, as did the other characters. I did enjoy the jazz references - the music references, in general. I guess I'm grateful that such a sad, depressing book took off on a riff of it's own to such a sweet ending.
I own a couple of other Jim Crace books, "Being Dead" and "Quarantine," but this was my first experience reading his work. I normally enjoy reading stories that are placed in the future, but in this book, that seemed to secondary to the protagonist's identity as a jazz musician, to the point that I wondered why Crace decided to place the story in the future. I like music, but I got tired of all of the musical references. It reminded me of "Netherland" in which Joseph O'Neill seemed to go overboard re: all the references to cricket. It didn't help that I didn't find Crace's protagonist very likable or interesting. Although it's clear that Crace knows how to write, this storyline was not very engaging. If this had not been a LibraryThing Early Reviewers book, I doubt I would have finished it.
Lennie Less is an accomplished British jazz saxophonist who is about to turn 50 in October 2024, and is reasonably happy, as he is in a comfortable marriage and his music has provided him with personal satisfaction and material comfort. One day he watches a hostage drama taking place in a nearby town, and recognizes the intruder as Maxie Lermon, an American activist that he met years ago, as he was the lover of a Nadia Emmerson, a woman he also loved. He wants to be of some assistance, knowing that the man has a violent streak and might kill his hostages. He meets up with the teenage daughter of Maxie and Nadia; she concocts a risky plan to bring the hostage drama to an end. Lennie, who is cautious to a fault, has reservations about the plan, yet cannot completely distance himself from the woman he once loved, and the young girl he has become enamored with.Despite an interesting story line I found this book to be quite disappointing, as I could not empathize with any of the characters, and I found Lennie, the main character, to be selfish, wishy washy and thoroughly annoying. Fortunately this was a short novel, but it's one I would not recommend.