The Man Without, Ray Robinson, Picador

    • 171 posts
    February 8, 2009 11:50 AM GMT
    Quick review: The Man Without, Ray Robinson, Picador 2008

    Ray Robinson’s second novel follows the somewhat self-centred navel gazing of Antony, a twenty-something Mancunian careworker. The novel which appears to be set in the mid 1980’s charts the lives of two main characters, Antony and Kenneth, both men whose lives have been disfigured by events beyond their control. Kenneth’s educated but foul-mouthed ejaculations are a result of a near-fatal stroke, whilst Antony’s depression and near suicidal sexual practices seem to be a result of the underlying tenor of the novel, ‘simply’ that he is a transvestite.

    Robinson has obviously done his homework and has attempted to gain an understanding prior to committing his thoughts to paper. I felt he was more successful with his depiction of Kenneth and he depicts this likeable rogue with humour and alacrity, but I feel his depiction of Antony is less successful. If I’d previously suffered a stroke of course, my view might be different.

    Robinson seems to work his way through a succession of accepted terminologies and analysis in his attempt to introduce, describe and analyse why Antony acts as he does. This is all a little studious and reminiscent of a well-researched school essay, but lacks subtlety. We learn of Antony’s conflict with his parents, his early abandonment, of an influential and exotic Aunt and of his desire for a lost girlfriend. We also reminisce with him about his conflicting sexual desires when he was in her company. Antony’s innermost secrets are revealed to a new girlfriend within the novel but the relationship isn’t consummated due to the ever-present cloud of Marjuana, depression and sexual repression.

    This may suggest this is a dark foreboding read, but it isn’t. There humour – black of course, and the novel culminates with a more positive character stepping out into the world. Overall it portrays a slightly negative view but Robinson should be congratulated for attempting a mainstream novel that tackles difficult subjects, but for readers who are already have more knowledge upon the topic than the author, the work lacks substance and any new perspectives.

    It might serve as an ideal introduction to transvestism to an un-informed audience, or possibly even your significant other. But be careful it’s a little blunt in parts..