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This review is taken from PN Review 146, Volume 28 Number 6, July - August 2002.

NEW LADDISM NEIL ROLLINSON, Spanish Fly (Cape) £8.00
DESMOND GRAHAM, After Shakespeare (Flambard) £7.50
ANDREW ZAWACKI, By Reason of Breakings (University of Georgia Press) $15.95

Neil Rollinson's Spanish Fly, his second collection published by Cape, opens with a blast of first-person narratives, mostly set in a recognisable contemporary England. Sober, modest, lusty and good-natured, these poems demonstrate that little is more contemporary than the desire to be recognisable. We are invited to learn where Rollinson drinks and eats, his preferences as to wine, company, public transport and sexual position. We are, in fact, invited to 'place' Rollinson as a fairly typical, conscientiously hip, thirtysomething Londoner, and by 'placing' him to 'place' ourselves. In a volume which opens with the 'I-persona' stepping up to take a penalty against a German goalkeeper, which takes in a darts match ('The last match of the South London pubs'/ semi-final and you're playing a stormer') and which concludes with the narrator fielding at deep third-man, we find ourselves deep in New Lad territory.

Like many New Lad manifestations, the appeal of Spanish Fly (which is difficult to separate from the appeal of the author) is partly negative. Rollinson is likable for not appealing to any grand narratives, for not instructing his audience as if it were ignorant, for not being obscure, for not quoting books we haven't read. We're invited to identify with the narrator, to see him as an everyman negotiating the tiresome obstacles of contemporary life. Occasionally, à la Bill Bryson, the point of a poem is an anecdotal critique of some curious corporate manifestation:

For the want of anything better to ...


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