A High-pitched Buzz, Roger Longrigg

Which did not live up to its billing by Slightly Foxed as being something like Simon Raven (and with my Raven fangirl head on, I never really expected it to), but was entertaining enough anyway. It’s a first person narrative recounting a few days in the life of Henry Fenwick, 2o something copywriter at an advertising agency that is recognised as being a lesser one even by its owner and founder. Apart from the fact that people don’t smoke absolutely all the time any more, and no one comes round with a tea urn at 10.30, it doesn’t seem as though offices or meetings have changed much:

Atmosphere had been discussed, angles canvassed, approaches approached. Nothing had been decided. Should the meeting go over the media plan in detail? Well, no. Should it, perhaps, adjourn? Certainly not.

Henry’s daily round is occupied by office politics, parties, escaping his entanglements with various dreadful girls and falling in love. The book was written in 1956, and I can’t tell if the setting is contemporary, but it’s still the sort of time when people fell in love about 10 minutes after they’d met, had several conversations that went like this:

‘Darling…?’

‘Oh yes, darling!’

‘Me too. Shall we?’

‘I think we should, don’t you?’

‘Darling!’

and then got engaged about 10 minutes after that; and subsequently un-engaged after a further week and a half. All of which I find quite satisfactory in small doses.

Henry is something of an unreliable narrator too, concealing and then revealing his real motives or thinking often enough that he might be naively charming; but at the same time, one then can’t entirely trust him when he does seem sincere. Not that it really matters because none of the activity is serious, and even Henry’s broken heart is quickly recoverable. All in all, a quick snapshot of the shuffling around-ness of life in one’s early 20s, when careers, relationships and personality are still being defined.

Caveat emptor: My copy is a Faber Finds and they haven’t done a bad job for POD but there’s no getting away from the fact that the cover is just plain nasty.

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