Thursday, May 17, 2018

Towards the End of the Morning (Valancourt 20th Century Classics) Paperback – August 4, 2015 by Michael Frayn (Valancourt Books )

Michael Frayn wrote some of the best plays of his era, but before becoming a dramatist, he was a newspaperman and novelist. “Towards the End of the Morning” (retitled to “Against Entropy” in the U.S., for some reason) was among his earliest ventures out of newsprint. It’s clearly a learning effort, as full of dull patches as of wondrous comic set-pieces, precursors of the classic “Noises Off.” The novel is set in a sleepy Fleet Street features department, not so different from the one where Evelyn Waugh set the beginning of “Scoop.” The distractable boss becomes fixated on becoming a chat show personality, despite lacking any discernible personality. One of his minions suffers from terminal spinelessness, and the other from terminal sleepiness, literally. The best bit in the book is a junket from hell, where the boozy planeful of sots with typewriters never reaches its destination. For those who drank in the pubs of Fleet Street, with occasional short breaks for work, as I did back before the Murdoch era, this is a joyful and true-to-life trip down memory lane. For the other 99 per cent, it will read like science fiction.

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