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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Gordon Burn

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To purchase Fullalove

Title: Fullalove
Author: Gordon Burn
Genre: Novel
Written: 1995
Length: 232 pages
Availability: Fullalove - US
Fullalove - UK
Fullalove - Canada

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Our Assessment:

B+ : stark, dark, vibrant

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
New Statesman . 18/8/1995 Boyd Tonkin
TLS . 1/9/1995 Phil Baker

  From the Reviews:
  • "Fullalove is -- among other things -- a shriek of hyper-literate rage against a culture that can spawn "perceptive" books about evil that should strike us dumb. (...) Given this strenuous over-determination, Fullalove is never a smooth road. Neither does it resolve in a redemptive act, as DeLillo's White Noise does. Instead, as in some Tarantino script, rewinds, allusions and coincidences stand in for onward movement or closure. Yet this must count as one of the year's most richly imagined and provocative novels." - Boyd Tonkin, New Statesman

  • "Fullalove is nothing if not upfront about what it's doing thematically, with the salient concepts underlined by characters' discussions. It's about new primitivism, atavistic quasi-religious behaviour, and the often heartfelt nature of kitsch. It's about the role of crime in giving us our folk-memories, our mythology, and our sense of community. And it's about the obscenity of the mass media (.....) Less of a perfect whole than Alma Cogan, this is still a rich and awesome work, so intensely, almost fatiguingly, brilliant that its black dazzle keeps the reader wavering between exhilaration and burn-out." - Phil Baker, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Fullalove is anything but. The narrator is Norman Miller, a journalist who once had a reasonably promising career at a more respectable newspaper but now toils in the seedy London tabloid world.
       Miller grew up in poor circumstances but escaped to London and journalism. He married, and even had two children, but never managed to become a family man of any sort -- the newspaper was his family, and the lifestyle (heavy on the alcohol and drugs and waiting, and with strange hours) precluded any other. As he says of himself and fellow tabloiders: "Following the plot of other people's misfortunes gives us the only sense of community we know." As he tells his story he's quite alone: only a handful of people he knows have even been to where he lives.
       Fullalove is full of tales of journalistic exploits, from the high point of his career -- covering the Ali fight in Zaire (where he was chummy with a man he didn't mind being confused with (as he often was, given their similar names), Norman Mailer) -- to the many, many lows. One of the lows is a story being covered for much of the novel, the deathwatch of a television celebrity who was assaulted by a man he had evidently picked up in order to engage in sex with. From getting background material on the subject to actually sneaking into the hospital for a look and some pictures the worst tabloid practices are all on display here.
       Some of it is fun: the characters who perform this work (and some of their odd specialties, such as seducing family members close to the subjects in order to obtain information and photographs) and some of the odder stories and circumstances. But by and large what fills these pages is -- literally and figuratively -- muck and filth. Besides the sordid tales (generally twisted obscenely to appeal to the basest reader-interests), Miller himself is soiled in every which way imaginable.
       The title refers to "my confidant, my china, (...) my fetish", the one object that provides some comfort (as no person can). It too comes with an ugly history -- and also doesn't survive the story without being (further) defiled.
       Miller plays at being an observer, a mere reporter of facts, but he knows he's much more -- a key part in what makes all this ugliness so ugly -- and the guilt overwhelms him. And still he can't help himself. For one, he's quite good at his job. A breakdown ruins his career, but he still can't really see himself doing anything else.
       Fullalove is a devastating look at the world of tabloid journalism, very effectively presented through the eyes (and reflected in the fate) of one man. Miller is largely beyond cynicism, relating the tale in voices shifting from unemotional to guilt-ridden to world-weary -- while avoiding becoming too sentimental (despite, for example, his Fullalove). Unfortunately for him, he sees no other world, just that ugly underbelly his job has taught him for so long to expose.
       Burn writes well, playing with style and tone, capturing the shifts in Miller's voice as it ranges from confident to desperate. It's a life that's been both exciting and dreary -- a mix Burn presents effectively. Fullalove is a short novel, but it's also both fast and full. Miler tells his story in a tabloid frenzy but using much richer language. There are passage here -- pages, even -- that leave the reader feeling like s/he's been tossed around in an airplane during a stretch of extreme turbulence: holding on as one is buffeted around, unable to stop it or escape, uncertain of what sharp twist or fall comes next. Lots of writers use a large vocabulary, but it seems a safe guess that few use as many different words for a text of such length as Burn has here: it's dense writing, with often rapid-fire descriptions -- but Burn doesn't intimidate with big words, instead utilizing variation, sound, and creative word combinations and contrasts.
       Much of the material is very ugly, but Fullalove is still a riveting read.

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Fullalove: Other books by Gordon Burn under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Contemporary British fiction at the complete review

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About the Author:

       British author Gordon Burn lived 1948 to 2009.

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