Telegraph Hill: Stranger than fiction.

Charlie Kaufman: The script I'm starting, it's about flowers. Nobody's ever done a movie about flowers before. So, so there are no guidelines... 
Donald Kaufman: What about "Flowers for Algernon"? 
Charlie Kaufman: Well, that's not about flowers. And it's not a movie. 
Donald Kaufman: Ok, I'm sorry, I never saw it. 
- Adaptation

 
Whitbread Book Award-winning novelist John Lanchester has released a new novel, Capital, set on Pepys Road, a fictionalised version of the Telegraph Hill street, during the unfolding financial crisis of 2007/08:

"Having a house in Pepys Road was like being in a casino in which you were guaranteed to be a winner."

The Independent says:

All London life is not – and can't be – here. Capital's preface alerts us to the flight of the old working- and lower-middle class from its neighbourhood. Matya notes that she and Zbigniew count as "servant-class". The Kamals and Petunia aside, the novel takes as its focus a fragile elite attended by recent migrants. Most of the middling sort have departed from this imaginary Pepys Road. Perhaps you might find more of them left in south London's actual Pepys Road, just a little to the east on Telegraph Hill. 

The cast of characters seems to be drawn from a crude set of stereotypes, reminiscent of one of Brockley Central's less-enlightening debates. As well as a "Banksy-style" conceptualist, the Standard says:

Capital's large cast feel familiar. There's Roger Yount, a banker for "whom everything in life had come easily", a Polish builder called Zbigniew who is said to toil "twice as hard as a British worker" and Smitty, a Banksy-esque artist. Representing the "squeezed middle" are the Kamals, the family who run the corner shop. Twice, too, Lanchester goes over well-explored ground: the Kamals become embroiled in a terrorist plot while Roger waits for - and then is disappointed by - his bonus.

It also quotes an observation about our attitudes towards the internet that's about a decade too late ('the internet's amazing, but we just use it to look at porn'). In other words, there's enough material here to fuel discussions of "mungs", "honest fare", "gentrification", "yummy mummies" and "scroungers" for years to come.

The consensus among the reviews we read was that the quality of the writing helps it overcome these banalities and  makes it an entertaining plot-driven read. Click here for an extract.

Thanks to Monkeyboy and Howard for alerting us.

36 comments:

mb said...

Hmmm...read part of the extract. Seems like a poor mans Bonfire Of The Vanities which you should ALL read immediatly by the way.

(might still buy it)

Anonymous said...

Erm - I think this might actually be wrong. Somebody close to the book told me this is actually based on the Pepys Road in Wimbledon. Maybe someone can clarify?

NAT said...

Ommaney road must a man walk down before you call him a man?

Anonymous said...

I heard it was another Pepys Road that it was about.

Is there another?

road confusion said...

don't want to burst anyone's bubble but it's a different Pepys road. This extract may help...

Now, however, history had sprung an astonishing plot twist on the residents of Pepys Road. For the first time in history, the people who lived in the street were, by global and maybe even by local standards, rich. The thing which made them rich was the very fact that they lived in Pepys Road. They were rich simply because of that, because all of the houses in Pepys Road, as if by magic, were now worth millions of pounds.

Mmm said...

pretty sure this ain't new cross....


The house in Pepys Road was double-fronted and had cost £2,500,000, which at the time had felt like the top of the market, even though prices had risen a great deal since then.

Anonymous said...

There is a much nicer Pepys Road in Raynes Park.

Anonymous said...

I understand that it's not clear in the book whether he means the Pepys Road in Telegraph Hill/New Cross or the one in Raynes Park South West London.

Anonymous said...

To Mmm said - Houses on Pepys Road (Telegraph Hill) are pretty expensive. Have you actually looked?

Anonymous said...

most people rent on the Telegraph Hill Peyps Road...

Mmm said...

Have I looked? I own one of them and I can assure that if it was valued at 2.5 million I would sell it today!

Danja said...

From reviews, it is supposedly based in Lambeth, but what with it being fictional it's all very unsatisfactorily imprecise.

mb said...

It's fictional, with a road 'based on' a real road.

Think that means that the people and prices may not be accurate.

It's a bunch of made up stuff, I may cancel my Amazon order.

mp said...

this is the worst propertyporn post ever!

Anonymous said...

Non-story am afraid, much as I like Brockley to reach popular culture. I think it's based in Clapham. Perhaps it was called Pepys Road as a reference to Samuel Pepys, who wrote accounts of London life in his diaries.

Anonymous said...

Yep its not New Cross. I read the extract at the weekend, I thought it was very readable, in fact I'm probably going to buy it. Some of us enjoy reading about bankers crushed.

Anonymous said...

...so it's basically set on a fictional road in London that happens to share a name with a real road in London. Wow what are the chances of that?

TheOracle said...

Trivia... give us some hard news.

What about that young man who was stopped in his car in Brockley the other week - he apparently had £1.5million pounds in the boot of his car!

Haven't seen any reports on that, just word of mouth. However, it just so happens that if he can't account for it, and no one steps forward to claim it, it will be siezed by Plod.

Come to think of it I'm sure I had that amount under my bed. Must check.

terrencetrentderby said...

the most interesting thing to happen to brockley since the great plague

mb said...

yes, BC ought to publish unsubstatiated rumours based on 'bloke down the pub said'

alex said...

And to add to the confusion the Evening Standard had a photo of the view from Upper Telegraph Hill Park as part of their book review yesterday.

Anonymous said...

He lives in Clapham, so I think it must be set there.

Has anyone read 'The Family Arsenal' by Paul Theroux? That is set around here, mostly Deptford and Catford. He calls Deptford High Street, an unhealed wound. It would make a good thread, Sauf Feast London in fiction.

notesofanidealist said...

Maybe the point of all this is that the fame of Greater Brockley is such that the Standard could not conceive of any other Pepys Road.

A tribute to BC and its legions of inerrant commentators.

There's a piece at http://www.thebookseller.com/profile/john-lanchester.html that says

Lanchester purposely keeps the exact area vague in order to make the street more typical and says that he "was pretty confident in naming it that there wouldn't be a real Pepys Road because the city tends to name streets after obnoxious dead aristocrats, not writers".

All those years of writing and he can't afford an A-Z!

tyrwhitt ali said...

There can't be many A-Zs around these days. Well I suppose languishing in cupboards like mine, but how often do people use them these days?

Brockley Nick said...

Agree with Notesofanidealist, it's irrelevant whether this fictional street is located in a fictional version of Telegraph Hill. It's a moo point. Like a cow's opinion. It doesn't matter. It's moo.

The point is that every reviewer seems to have made up their mind that it's the one in Telegraph Hill and it has catapulted the area in to the literati consciousness.

Tyrwhitt Michael said...

I am still a map man especially in the car where my A-Z lives.

I also have a laminated A-Z on the wall above my dining table.

That may be too much detail ;0)

Anonymous said...

Sat nav for me. None of your artisan maps - and great for alerting towards speed cameras so one can temporarily slow down before a quick blast-off!

pip said...

John Lanchester wrote an excellent, very readable book about the credit crunch: "Whoops! Why everyone owes everyone and no-on can pay".

I echo Mb's endorsement of Bonfire of the Vanities too - a great read. Just don't bother with A Man in Full.

Anonymous said...

Amazing, a fictional street in a smalltime work of fiction, has the same name as a street near me.

Wait whilst I contact every community website where there is a street called Coronation Street about an almost daily ITV show about their area. It feels like important news they should mention...

Anonymous said...

My A-Z is in my car, my satnav isn't.

Anonymous said...

I tell the writing's on the wall.

Anonymous said...

It's meant to be a fictional street in Clapham.

Mb said...

"It's meant to be a fictional street in Clapham"

a real Clapham or a fictional Clapham? This is very confusing. These so called 'authors' with their oh so clever 'novels', whats wrong with just sticking a map in the front with proper roads? wasting EVERYONES time. Probley communist.

Bookish said...

'The consensus among the reviews we read was that the quality of the writing and helps it overcome these banalities...'

Writing and what?? High-quality writing is always better for a few .

Nice review of something you haven't actually read; is this the new literary criticism - cobble together a couple of reviews by other people and draw conclusions?

Brockley Nick said...

It wasn't a book review, it was a summation of the (four) reviews I read.

Anonymous said...

He wrote 'The Debt to Pleasure.' He can do no wrong.

Latest Tweets

Brockley Central Label Cloud

Click one of the labels below to see all posts on that subject. The bigger the label, the more posts there are!