Beatniks by Toby Litt
1995, and at a party in Bedford, Mary meets Jack and Neal, a pair of hipsters and self-confessed Beats’ stuck (un)squarely in the sixties. After a Beat (not-quite) Happening’ at the local library, the three of them (and Neal’s cat Koko) set off in Mary’s Vauxhall on a road trip to Brighton in search of literary fame and fortune. But, this is neither the time nor the place for free love, uncomplicated sex and unrestrained cool this is 1990s Britain and everything comes with a price
When asked what category I would place this book in, I struggled to think of an answer. I think it would just sit in fiction as the book just follows a group of twenty-somethings as they live life as though they are stuck in the 1960s – the era before Dylan had his motorcycle accident. This is not horror or a even a psychological thriller, it is just Mary, Neal and Jack looking for a “hip” time.
This wasn’t a bad book, but I’m not sure I’ll be jumping at a chance to read Litt again. This book did seem a bit random to me. Can people really live their lives as though they are stuck in a decade that they weren’t even born in? There were definitely elements of the book I found unbelieveable – like Mary and Jack’s trip to America. There were areas of the book that made me uncomfortable. In Brighton Mary loses all inhibitions and partakes in a threesome that is watched. I didn’t like reading that at all.
I think this could be used as a social study however. One could use this to look at behaviour, what influences people and how beliefs can shape someone’s life.
I didn’t connect with any of the characters. I found they all bugged me. Mary was desperate to fit in, Jack was trying to be “cool” and “hip” and Neal I felt just needed to grow a backbone. If I’m going to be honest, although this wasn’t an awful book and I did read it in a day, I only finished it because I was reading it for my dissertation. As I sit and think about this book I’m not overly excited by the memory of it. It will be a book I will probably have forgotten about in a few months.