Home > 2010, British Literature, Novel, Sutton Henry > What if John Self and Lou Ford had a merger?

What if John Self and Lou Ford had a merger?

Get Me Out Of Here by Henry Sutton

Matt, I know all this. You’ve told me countless times, but as I’ve said before, and as plenty of other people have said too, including Mum – she was always saying it – you’re not the easiest person to live with. You’re obsessive, you get paranoid, you can have a horrible temper, made worse by drink, half the time you live in a fantasy world, and you’re a snob, too. You don’t help yourself, Matt. It’s weird but you also have this horrible, macabre side to you – part of your overactive imagination? I don’t know. You should have done something that required a little more imagination. You should have been an artist. But you do tend to think the worst of every situation, and then you try to make everyone else think the same. It’s scary. I’m not surprised it didn’t work out with Fran.’

I wanted to read Get Me Out Of Here after reading Guy’s review. This was a shattering book. The more I progressed in my reading the more I was screaming internally Get Me (Emma) out of here (Matt’s head). As you can guess, it’s a first person narrative. Matt Freeman is a totally unreliable character. He’s a Londoner who lives in a complex designed by Chamberlin, Powell and Bon, silly admirers of Le Corbusier, responsible for hideous post-war suburbs in France. Matt got on my nerves right from the first pages when he makes a fuss about his spectacles in the optician’s shop. He’s obnoxious, obsessed with luxury brands and treats awfully the poor sales clerk. He supposedly works as an independent ???, maybe marketer, I never quite figured out what his profession was supposed to be. He’s obsessed with leaving for North Korea, which is in itself a proof of his insanity. He despises other people and feels superior to everyone:

I couldn’t put up with this for a moment longer. It wasn’t just public transport that was insufferable, it was the public, too.

Nice man, right?

At the beginning, he sounds picky but rather normal. The more you read, the more you discover his true self, the more you want to run away from him. The novel unravels his talent for lies, his violent relationships with women, his total lack of interest for others. Here is Matt, describing his supposed best friend Roger:

She and Roger had two hideous, red-haired children. One, in theory, was my godson. I still hadn’t got his christening present engraved. In fact I couldn’t remember where I’d put it, or what it was. He was possibly six or seven. I had no idea when his birthday was.

He has trouble remembering his sister-in-law’s name and of course doesn’t know the names and ages of his nephews. He only thinks of himself, never questions his perceptions and always sees other people’s reactions in a twisted way.

Why this post title? John Self is the hero of Money by Martin Amis. Matt is also obsessed with money, wealthy people and also fosters unrealistic career prospects. He’s attracted to the same kind of women. Lou Ford is the hero of The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson. Matt is as psycho and disturbing as Lou, they are both highly despicable characters.

Sutton is excellent on the plot side and the style side. The book slowly reveals evidences of Matt’s craziness and the style is cutthroat but dark funny:

This was a chunk of Westminster barely touched since the days of Orwell. It made Bobbie’s flimsy abode look like a designer penthouse. Just being at Suze’s made me feel down and out.

The only thing I regret is all that brand quoting, I missed some references, my interest in fashion being null. I supposed they were all expensive clothes and equipment. I’ve been to London only once and I remembered enough of the tube to follow Matt in his underground wanderings but it’s true this book must have another flavor for a Londoner than for a foreigner.

Henry Sutton is an excellent writer but I didn’t have a nice moment reading his book. It took me a lot of time, being in Matt’s head was really uncomfortable, claustrophobic. In a way, Sutton is too good a writer, Matt invaded my consciousness to the point I had to put the book down and rest. After this, I needed light and funny.

PS: Another review by Kevin here

  1. March 25, 2012 at 12:42 am

    Hi Emma, nice review as always! I’m not familiar with Loud Ford, but can definitely see the resemblance to John Self in this character. Reading Money, too, there were lots of moments when I was thinking “Get me out of this guy’s world!” But there was also a payoff, and I think with books like this there needs to be a big payoff to justify spending so much time in such an unpleasant place. Sounds as if I would enjoy the London references at least (although not the fashion ones!).

    Like

    • March 25, 2012 at 11:36 am

      If you haven’t read The Killer Inside Me, it’s worth reading. Lou is one of the most disturbing character I’ve encountered in literature. But I wonder if Matt Freeman isn’t even worse, more out of control and crazy.

      I missed a lot of the fun in Money because my British English isn’t good enough, especially when it comes to slang.

      Like

      • March 26, 2012 at 1:29 am

        Thanks Emma – I checked out The Killer Inside Me and it looks good – I’ve added it to my (long!) list of books to read. It surprises me when you talk about your English because in your writing there’s almost never any sign that it’s not your first language. But I suppose that slang is a different matter, as well as references that are not so much about the language as about a national or regional culture.

        Like

        • March 26, 2012 at 6:55 am

          References to popular culture (TV or radio shows, famous journalists, commercials, shops…) are difficult when you’ve never lived in the country. It took me ages to eventually figure out what M&S was! Not that it really mattered that I didn’t know exactly where Matt bought his underwear.

          That’s also why I wrote in my post about 99 Francs that you need to be French to read it in French. (Or perhaps you just need to watch the French TV channels regularly)

          Like

  2. March 25, 2012 at 12:52 am

    I found it funny more than anything else and I hope for a sequel. Great diea for the merger between Self and Lou Ford. More on the Lou Ford side for me.

    Like

    • March 25, 2012 at 11:39 am

      I re-read your review after writing mine and I saw you also mentioned John Self.

      I didn’t find it that funny. Pop 1280 was dark funny but here, Matt is too crazy and chilling to be funny. Sure, the writing is witty but I can’t say I laughed out loud reading this.

      Like

  3. March 25, 2012 at 8:42 am

    I’ve got this as well right after Guy’s review and will read it – not so soon – but as soon as possible. I don’t know either Money or The Killer Inside Me but I’m sure the comparson is apt.

    Like

    • March 25, 2012 at 11:40 am

      I’m interested in reading your thoughts about it and discover how you’d react to it. Guy found it funny, I didn’t; that would be nice have someone else’s opinion.

      Like

      • March 25, 2012 at 11:42 am

        I actually thought that despite the fact that you both liked it, the reaction was very different. Interesting. And interesting for me to find out how I will react.

        Like

  4. March 25, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    It’s interesting what you said about brands etc. I think that this is something to avoid in writing as they can date the book very quickly…

    Like

    • March 25, 2012 at 7:19 pm

      In a sense, I agree with you, because fashion changes and brands disappear.
      That was one of the flaws of 99Francs but how can you talk about commercials and advertising without quoting brands.

      But in another way, all these brands, the attitude they create for consumers are part of our world. To discribe our world is also to talk about these brands.

      Like

  5. March 26, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    he does sound like a updated john self or even a non psychotic patrick Bateman ,all the best stu

    Like

    • March 26, 2012 at 10:56 pm

      I haven’t read American Psycho (yet) I don’t want to reveal too much about the book but psychotic isn’t the right psycho-word that goes along with Matt Freeman.
      He’s as obsessed with sex and money as John Self but less innocent.

      Like

      • March 31, 2012 at 6:19 pm

        Bateman was obsessed with status sex and brands as much as self was ,all the best stu

        Like

        • April 1, 2012 at 9:34 pm

          Thanks, I see the connection now.

          Like

  6. March 30, 2012 at 9:45 pm

    I just read Kevin’s review of this. It’s one that I expect I will read, but I must admit it’s not quite pressing itself on me (not like say the Zola which led me straight to checking translations or Guy’s review of Tirra Lirra which had me looking at Amazon resellers, this just got added to a wishlist).

    American Psycho is a book I liked far more during the first half than I did during the second. Beyond that I can’t really comment. I should probably read some more Ellis at some point, he’s an interesting writer though not without flaws. But then who is?

    Like

    • March 30, 2012 at 9:49 pm

      I’ll read Kevin’s review.
      I think it would echo to Militant Modernism, in an unexpected way…

      Like

  7. April 2, 2012 at 10:30 pm

    This sounds like one for the wishlist and you have reminded me that I ought to read Money. It comes up a lot in books about 20th century fiction and the connection you make here illustrates how iconic John Self is. But I don’t expect to ‘enjoy’ either of them, exactly…

    I really dislike branding in novels, and it is worse when they start to date. I can see what the author is aiming for, but it is like any other kind of allusion; can be excluding for people (and that would include me) who are not cognisant with the significance of the brands mentioned.

    Like

    • April 2, 2012 at 10:50 pm

      Money is great (I reviewed it). It was difficult to read because of the language but it’s innovative, it’s insightful and funny. John Self is more an icon in English speaking countries than in here.

      I dislike the brands too because of the ageing thing. Of course it is excluding but so is Umberto Eco with his quotes in Latin. But the Latin quotes sound intellectual when the brand quoting doesn’t. (I have a similar problem with car models. Often, I don’t see which car it is)

      Like

  8. leroyhunter
    April 22, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    Nice review Emma. I was probably a little closer to Guy in my reaction to the book: Matt is such a berk you have to find it funny.

    I don’t mind the brand thing so much, it’s apt and shows an important part of Matt’s personality. American Psycho has lots (and lots and lots) of the same kind of thing, which is part of the satirical point Bret Easton Ellis is making in that book (I think). But I can see how it would be off-putting as well – a lot of people hate American Psycho not because of the extraordinary violence but because of the endless, agonisingly detailed discussions and lists of yuppie paraphernalia and culture.

    Like

    • April 22, 2012 at 9:30 pm

      You’re right, it’s apt but I missed most of the references, that’s just because I’m not much into fashion. But it tells a lot about Matt’s personality and our world.

      I would have found it funnier if Matt were harmless.

      I think I’d better avoid American Psycho. Brands + violence, I’m not sure I’d like the cocktail.

      Like

  1. April 1, 2012 at 11:20 pm

I love to hear your thoughts, thanks for commenting. Comments in French are welcome

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: