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Former Al Jazeera, CNN and BBC Today journalist publishes four novels in one volume about terrorism, property prices, the British rich and the British poor and broadcast news.
"The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appears.”
Antonio Gramsci, Prison Notebooks.
The Dream of the Decade
“…A society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer, who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells.”
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, 1888.
Dhidhoofinolhu, South Ari Atoll, Republic of Maldives
Christmas Day, 2004
It’s been two decades since he’s been gone. I’d lie if I said that I’d been thinking about him every day.
There are the children to look after. There’s been all the tooing and froing. After twenty years, it really does all seem a dream. London in the nineteen-eighties was revolutionary, charged up, constantly varying. I couldn’t even show photos of myself to the children from way back then. To their eyes I would look artificial in those strange dresses and hairstyles. What happened to puffball skirts, anyway?
This has been hardly a rare separation from my husband, Alex. But there’s something about being dumped with the children while he goes to even greater lengths making our life comfortable that makes me remember how I first met him. He’s busy working on business projects in the Gulf and up to Iraq, of all places and it’s all for me and the children. The Maldives beach huts here are any woman’s fantasy of a desert island and spending Christmas 2004 with the kids will be a memory we shall share for ever. If only Alex was here with us!
I can walk from one side of South Ari Atoll to another in just thirty seconds. And the water is so shallow I don’t even have to worry about the children. The food is irritating but I suppose I didn’t come here for the food. The whole thing was Alex’s idea. He’s been doing business as far East as Indonesia and he said it would be better here than being cooped up in the flat, back home. Here we have our own island and the funny sounding name of Dhidhoofinolhu to laugh at.
Of course, I do worry about what Alex is up to. But he says things are much better in places like Baghdad than the television pictures would make us believe. I try and stop the children watching the satellite in our room, instead encouraging them to swim, sunbathe and play badminton.
I did ask to go to Baghdad with him. He said he was living in a gorgeous mansion. It’s either safe or it isn’t, after all. But he said he didn’t want the children there. I love him but that didn’t sound straight with me. Men never are straight with their wives in my experience, though.
I brought the following papers here with me on a sudden whim. We’d been tidying the loft and when I saw them in an old trunk, I put them together in a binder and felt unfaithful when I packed them in my son’s suitcase.
Life, as you will see, was even more glamorous then. Alex was certainly doing much better. It was all before the nineties property crash that did for him and us. And then there were those dotcoms. Hopefully, the work in Iraq will get us up to speed – even to the levels we enjoyed back in 1986.
It’s strange how I’ve lost touch with everyone in the story except for Alex. Or perhaps that’s the same with everyone and their friends from 1986. I wonder what Julie is doing?
The two children are fighting with the Bangladeshi waiter over the food again. They are so fussy. My son is writing a school project about the environment and the erosion of coral reefs here. Right now, I turn my head and look at them. I can see them, my feet still in the glittering turquoise of the Indian Ocean. They are little people bathed in palm frond light and they have so much confidence, confidence that I gained later than them when I was careering around California working for weapons laboratories.
Nothing can touch us here. Not his dreams of decades or his interconnectedness obsessions.
“I’m just coming. Shut up, the both of you!” I holler before turning back to the glorious ripples and waves.
Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.
Every time I use that brand of hairspray my hair becomes all sticky. Anyway, I get on with what I’m doing, staring into the mirror and puckering up my lips. I think I look pretty good. Yesterday I lay on the sun-bed for a couple of hours, then had a swim in Tony Pakula’s pool—he lives up in Bel Air and is kind of cute looking, but everyone’s after him—and then I played tennis with Marsha. She’s supposed to be my best friend but last week she went off to see the latest Hockneys at the Getty with my boyfriend (well, kind of boyfriend) and the next I knew it she was jumping into the sack with him.
I don’t really have many friends but then everyone else had a headstart. They either picked up their cliques at USC or else found their friends at work. I only moved out here about eight years ago and being British I didn’t really fit in. Sure, people liked me a lot, the boys seemed to think I was something different to the usual Californian blondes and sure I picked up the accent and even a little well worn Californian slang. But I missed England, or rather London, and yet I couldn’t get up enough courage to leave. Los Angeles is like that, the heat, the luxury, the affluence trap you until you don’t dare chuck it all up because of some longing to be back in the mother-country. Mind you, recently I’ve been picking up some of that courage; one of these days I’m returning, as the blues’ song goes. I’ve learnt a lot here, a lot of useful things that I could use in London to my advantage. You see for all its affluence, LA is a very tough city. Once you’ve survived it, a wimp capital like London is a walk-over.
Some whacky artist is having an art-opening at The Stock Exchange III club tonight. The club’s been re-launched quite a few times; the last opening party was great. I met a couple of English guys there and had them both before they left. ‘Having’ people is something everyone does over here. As long as you have the money or the looks (I have the latter) you can ‘have’ as many people as you so desire.
When I first came to LA everyone said I should try my luck at acting or modelling. I met a few producers that were interested but in the end it was me that decided that the starlight wasn’t my cup of tea. I’m six feet tall, eyes of blue with a nose that my friends call retrouseé and long hazel-brown hair that has to be cut every three weeks. I drive a car called a Rabbit and every morning I work out at the gym opposite my apartment in Santa Monica. Santa Monica is where a lot of Brits settled and parts of it, like Ocean Avenue, look out onto the Pacific. When I first came to the city, the weather was cloudy (LA is often cloudy, something to do with all the smog that rises around its inhabitants, whether it be BO or Giorgio) and I thought, as I walked down Santa Monica pier, that this place was a little like Brighton. The pier has a run-down fair that has dilapidated bumper-cars and merry-go-rounds all staffed by Mexican losers trying to earn a living. The food’s not the same as cockles, eels and fish ‘n’ chips but every time I felt a little homesick, I went down there, sitting on the wooden shafts and looking at the sun slowly set over the ocean.
After working out and having a shower I usually leave for work. The graphics design office I toil at is in a tower that’s part of Century City. A lot of young successful executives work there but they’re all really stuffy so I’m glad to leave at the end of the day. The work is interesting though. Back in England I used my artistic abilities on record covers and the layouts for underground newspapers; I was quite a rebel at the time. Now I use electronic gadgets like mice and graphic tablets to do really important things. At the moment, I’m working on an aesthetic design for missile nose-cones. After I finish with the project, designing the cone like a Michelangelo phallus, the scientists take it and see what small changes need to be made to put it into operation. And then, voila, out come 3,000 nuclear warheads with my name on them. Next week, we’re beginning a really good project, related to the American Strategic Defence Initiative—that means a lot of money and very little work.
Anyway, back to tonight. It’s pretty dark outside and I can see lots of Hopperesque hamburger and hot-dog joints raking lots of money. Most of LA seems to be office blocks now, apart from certain districts like Melrose, the equivalent, I suppose to Chelsea’s King’s Road. Driving in Downtown LA is something else entirely. Here the buildings are much taller than anywhere else but they lie between huge slums. I’ve never been down there but a friend of mine who was making an anti-drug commercial (which is funny in itself since he deals most of the coke that we take) said that it was terrible down there. He said that it was just thousands and thousands of Blacks and Mexicans sleeping in tents, if they were lucky, but more often than not just on the warm tarred streets. For me, the only danger is the five yard walk from the car park. I walk it uneasily, usually there’s someone with me but tonight it’s just me listening to the sound of my stilettos and a few car horns. There’s a beggar on the street but he looks pretty harmless. I pass him and he shouts something I don’t understand before I’m one of fifty or so people crowding around the door to the club. There are bright yellowy spotlights and a red carpet and two bouncers, one of whom I know really well. When I first came here I was pretty innocent and as I was trying to get into the Bamboozle Club (now closed down, which is a great pity), I thought I had to fuck the bouncer to get in. It wasn’t a bad night either. He was looking after his boss’s house in Palisades and we must have got through twenty bottles of Californian champagne. He was really fat, even for a bouncer. I can’t remember his name now but I think I used to go for fat men back then, just for the sake of it.
“Hey it’s me, Kathleen!” I shout not expecting to be heard above the din but, surprisingly, the guy looks straight at me and acknowledges my presence, making way for me in the crowd and kissing me on the cheek. His breath smells of peppermints which isn’t a bad thing to smell of but as soon as I get on the red carpet I run upstairs, not wanting to get to close to the guy.
Upstairs, I look for the faces I know.
“Kathleen! It’s me, Jonathan Alford the second,” says a small man in turtle-shell glasses. I try to ignore him but he keeps pestering me for a dance. Thinking I should give some charity I say yes and lead him onto the huge dance-floor that’s buzzing with bombshells and tall, dark handsome men. For a while I dance with John and then, seeing a blonde man with sparkling teeth I saunter towards him, edging closer and closer. He’s wearing a Rolex but since Marsha never succeeded in teaching me how to tell a fake from the real thing I don’t know he’s rich. But then, as I establish eye-contact, I notice that his jacket seems to fan out as he dances—I can just make out the Armani label. It may not be a Brioni but it’s good enough for me.
When the Prince track stops, he motions me to his table. Behind me, though I don’t see her until I sit down, is an angry Californian babe. The man just smiles, apparently she’s his sister and she’s angry because she told her brother to bring some of the Gauloise Blondes that they got from Paris and he forgot them. He looks at me and smiles like he’s saying “sorry, my sister had a bad childhood,” (who didn’t?) and then really says “what’s your name?”
“Kathleen, what’s yours?” I say, flickering my eyelashes and wanting this guy.
“My name’s Andy, like Warhol,” he says idiotically—I still want him. “Would you like some coke?”
“Sure,” I reply before we get up and go to one of the outer bars where most people are cutting lines without any shame. When we sit down I’m not sure what to do, you see, I have a bit of a cold at the moment and my nose is clogged up with this gunge. Anyway, I sniff it all up and it seems to go OK. I’m dying to blow my nose, though, but I restrain myself.
Andy has disgusting hands, huge big ones like halibuts. I notice that his sister has to do most of the cutting and that she looks after the stuff. She’s better looking than Andy too, but I couldn’t stand the trouble tonight.
“It’s good snow, ain’t it?” he asks. I can hear his voice now, really tinny, like a young boy, even though he must be over thirty. I reply with a nod. “What do you do?”
“I’m from England, out on holiday,” I always reply the same way so as to avoid saying I’m a graphic designer which might be construed as a little boring and I instead give the impression that I’m a one-night-stand-type-of-girl, free easy and just waiting helplessly for a holiday romance.
“Yeah? I knew a girl from England once. She ripped me off, stole some things from my apartment and…oh if I could get a hold of her,” he flexed his halibuts.
“Terrible, I know English girls are a bit weird that way.”
“You’ve got quite an American accent—how long have you been out here?” asks the sister, who’s been eyeing up boys and chewing on a straw for the past few minutes.
“Not long, I guess I learn pretty quickly. What do you do, Andy?” I say turning back to Andy. The music is loud, the atmosphere sweaty, the girl sexily brushing off wisps of her blonde hair that momentarily cover up her facial features—but I won’t go for her tonight.
“I’m a businessman, I work in computers mostly, buying and selling,”
There was an uneasy pause after his remark before I took the initiative and bent over and whispered into his ear: “Are you going to get rid of that sister of yours?” Suddenly, he got up and asked me to dance.
“Louisa, we’re going to be quite a while, OK?” Andy said but Louisa had a far-away look in her eyes and nodded the same way she would have if Andy had said that he was ordering a large olive and anchovy pizza.
The DJ was only playing fast songs and so after a couple of tracks I edge closer to Andy and pull him towards me.
“Hey you English girls are pretty quick, aren’t you?” he said.
“Come on, let’s go.”
I had him in the proverbial palm of my hand, leading him away like an idiot. On the way out I saw some of my friends but I ignored them. I just wanted to have Andy. There was no particular reason, he seemed a nice enough person—one couldn’t tell anyway after only an hour or so of small talk—but as always Kathleen wanted a screw to pep her up. I told him I’d follow his car, a horrible old Chevy that he said he was borrowing while his Porsche was getting fixed. I didn’t believe him but stared at his number-plate ‘KICK’ for about ten kilometres. Presumably, someone had already chosen ‘KICKS’ so he had to make do with a meaningless verb stuck on his fender instead.
We parked outside his apartment block and kissed on the pavement. I pulled away. I didn’t want to kiss this guy, I wanted something other than his tongue inside me. I was even crying a little as I tried to make him understand. His apartment was on the top floor, a nice, cosy place with brilliant views of the constantly changing freeways dominating each room—it would have looked even better if he had the sense to call an interior decorator. Still, we were alone and there was a bedroom in the house so I sat down and waited for him to serve some wine. There’s one piece of advice that I have to give any English people who come over here and that is not to touch the wine. Californian wine is by and large crap and most glasses I get I pour into the azaleas. Stick to the spirits or the wonderful choice of beers in this state. Anyway, by now I’m undressing him, pulling his trousers down as he escapes from his jacket. Once he’s down to his boxers I push him onto the sofa.
“No,” he says as my heart flutters but he only wants us to go to the bedroom. It’s quite a nice room too, a promo poster from on of David Lynch’s films on the wall and the strong scent of Ralph Lauren Polo aftershave in the air. I kiss him on the chest and lower him down on the bed, unbuttoning my 501s and pulling a flimsy T-shirt over my head. He smiles, he gapes looking like a complete moron as I pull down my panties and lay on him as I pull them off my ankles. I can feel him really big against me and from the corner of my eye I can see a pack of condoms on a table. He knows I’ve seen them too and thinks I probably want to use one.
“Come on,” I say, relaxing him a bit, holding his thing as he enters me. I try to look away when we’re pushing and pulling, I look around the room, at the furniture, the objects. I can see a matt black side-table adorned by some back-issues of Gentleman’s Quarterly. He kneads my breasts with his big halibuts as I notice a couple of telephone directories. Digging my nails into his shoulders, I look out of the window at the thousands of reds and yellows that make up the freeway traffic. I try to focus on one of them, a light surrounded by darkness, a big lorry maybe. I follow it and just as it fades away I feel him come and then I climax too, like I always do.
“Early June has no boundaries.” This is what I wrote, one night, looking over a city stooped in the lights of fast cars. It was an apartment, high above all the whoring and spitting lower down, all the way to street level. One in the morning and while high heeled shoes hit the pavement below all that occupied my mind was the temperature of the coffee I had forgotten about. It had lain on the window sill while my mind wandered and imagined, looking upwards from the dense black park and into a light orange sky. I ignored the merging lights of yellow and red, they sat in the corner of my eye. It was the black silhouettes of the trees against a wash that coloured the sky that seemed so much more calming. It’s true that I hadn’t forgotten the luxury of the fragrant leather seats that had brought me here but all I felt, as I looked over a city provoking so many cold emotions, was that I was alone. The green telephone behind me matched my eyes and seldom rang, only sitting as if it was a vase or a souvenir from a far-away place. I put my hand against the glass like a child, then took it away to see the imprint of the harsh lines that scarred the palm and the fingers. The old pencil and the white paper-pad lay on the stately brown rug below me. I thought, quite suddenly, of a walk I had taken in that park when I was ten or twelve. Then I was so much more fascinated by the setting sun and the immediate brightening of street illumination. I turned around, I remember, looking back towards the street and took great pleasure in the space that was left in the middle of such a complicated and crowded city. But that was a long time ago, then I had parents that could take me for walks and show me all the wonderful things that I now never see. Then, at least, I was interested—I remember the uninhibited emotion and the smiles that came from the heart. Then, there were no filters to my mind, only an ocean of trust that would never stir to the fact that these fantastic mazes of streets and lights, that these strange, tall buildings all waved such loneliness.
I was dressed in jeans and a blue jumper, walking and seeming so confident. I expected the love and I thought it would never end. And now, so long after those walks, I stare at what I think was my path and realise that those people, who showed me so much, have gone. It doesn’t matter that they never saw my successes, that they couldn’t even hope that one day I would be looking out from the top of one of the tall buildings getting all sentimental and upset. I wasn’t upset, my face had none of those contortions, but I felt and I felt deeply and that’s what matters now.
I took only a last glimpse, tightening my dressing gown, before pulling the string that closed and finished the image that never tired me. I reached behind the curtains briefly and pulled the cup of coffee carefully towards me before I drank the cold coffee in gulps, like medicine. Air-conditioned and smelling faintly of cologne, the room darkened with a switch and I went to sleep with the nearly silent murmur of traffic, so many storeys below. It was always there, every night, but it would never be a comfort that there were so many people all around me, travelling, sleeping, walking. That soft murmur was not the murmur of people, it was the murmur of a giant machine ticking away like the rails under a slow train. I left the coffee on the bed-side, unable to drink anymore, only feeling, as my head rested on the clean, hotel pillow, that I could cry from all this loneliness.
Novel Al Jazeera Man
"The Dream of the Decade" comes with high praise. Dan Franklin, publisher of Martin Amis, Salman Rushdie and Ian McEwan is an admirer of the book and says that 30-something Rattansi "captures the atmosphere of the late 1980s." But with the first British publication of this quartet, it's easy to see that these characters are very much living with us today.
It's always difficult for a new novelist to break through the household literary name strata. And, often, more difficult for the aspiring writer is answering questions as to what their work is about. J. D. Salinger would have found it difficult to describe immediately why the plot of "Catcher in the Rye" was inherently interesting. Norman Mailer would have had trouble with "An American Dream". It's the "hook" books like "A Handmaiden's Tale" or "The Satanic Verses" that are altogether easier.
There are hooks in Afshin Rattansi's debut novels, four of them published in one volume and all loosely connected, not least that they centre on life in London. The first book is about the growing divide between rich and poor just as balsamic vinegar was becoming fashionable amongst the new yuppie class. There follows a book on how Londoners respond to a terrorist bomb scare and another on how property prices began to dominate life in London. The final book is a very thinly disguised satire, or what looks like a satire, on news values at the BBC. But what unites the quartet is an ineluctable quality of the writing.
The thirty something British-born writer, whose Kenyan father is an expert on Sir Isaac Newton and alchemy, is slightly dismissive of the publication of the book.
"I went through two agencies, Curtis Brown and A.P. Watt and I can't say I was helped much and now it's twenty years on," he says about to pull another cigarette from a packet on the table and then replacing it. "I think publishers in the eighties and earlier nineties were more interested in my Indian origin than the subject matter of the book."
The first chapters of the first book were written at a time of resurgent Commonwealth writing. Rattansi, himself, worked on stories about Salman Rushdie during the Satanic Verses affair when he was on Tariq Ali's groundbreaking Channel 4 series, Bandung File.
Dressed in fashionable jeans and a black T-shirt, Rattansi is sitting in a Chateau Marmont seat after being interviewed by Los Angeles' most progressive radio station, KPFK. On the same programme was the now dead activist and former co-founder of LA's notorious Crips gang, Stanley "Tookie" Williams whose clemency pleas didn't prevent him from being injected with Sodium Pentothal.
"Los Angeles has always fascinated me and it was Mike Davis' book, City of Quartz, that enlightened me so much as to why. Whereas London is two organisms, the centre and the suburbs, Los Angeles is a myriad directly opposing entities. It has a sophisticated left, a developing world level population, a strong harbour union, fabulous colonies of wealth and it creates rightwing propaganda. And natural disasters have repeatedly shocked and devastated the area."
The prologue begins with one of the lead women characters of the books, now settled in marriage, relocating to the site of the 2005 Asian Tsunami. It is as if the person who most embraced the new opportunities that privatisation and a city that encouraged entrepreneurship is most shattered by its consequences.
"There is even a theory that the reason why Diego Garcia wasn't affected by the tsunami was because there was no commercial prawn fishing there. In Sri Lanka and Aceh, increasing commercialisation of the shrimp industry destroyed the protective reefs."
Rattansi sees politics in everything. He worked as a chief risk analyst at the insurers' Lloyd's of London after they had lost billions of pounds. His expertise was in catastrophe analysis, both environmental and political. But the books are in no way political tracts.
"One of the most moving letters of F. Scott Fitzgerald is the one he writes to his daughter, urging her to read Marx. His novels may be liked by criminal conservatives like Jeffrey Archer but whether a novel is political one way or another is in the eye of the beholder.
"What animates the title novel, I hope, is that I was part of a generation which was convinced that the social fabric that was ripped apart by Mrs. Thatcher would take a long time to mend. It's perhaps difficult to remember for those in their twenties that there was a time when music and politics were incredibly sophisticated and polarised. Well, perhaps popular music is still as polarised. And it was a time when one section of society leapfrogged at the expense of another."
Despite looking in his later twenties, Rattansi is on Jonathan Coe's eighties' territory about the post-punk, post-New Romantic time of The Smiths and the Orgreave battle of the Miners' Strike. But The Dream of the Decade is much more international than Coe.
"I always envisaged that the four main themes or even obstacles that the characters would have to circumnavigate were class, political terrorism, property and the media. They are vague but actually impact on everyday life. Well, at the time, terrorism didn't impact on daily life and the book rather explodes the myth that it does. But certainly, property does. As for the media, its place is an education system for adults - a dangerously flawed education system. I actually wrote a novel about education but it wasn't up to scratch."
Rattansi's first job was at The Guardian and he has a younger brother who followed him into journalism, now anchoring world news from CNN in the U.S.
The novels do have a distinctly American feel about them even though they capture the texture of London, something that many publishers commented on as he received his rejection slips. Rattansi was born in Cambridge but has lived all over the world, covering wars and political stories and just writing. Among the places he's lived in are Vancouver in Canada, in Los Angeles and in Havana and Caracas. In Dubai, for two years, he headed up the developing world's first 24 hour English language news station, devoted to an incredible remit that at times, according to Rattansi "made Al Jazeera look like Fox News."
"It was a station devoted to issues of globalisation and international capital except 'from below' and the brother of the Crown Prince of Dubai footed the bill. Someone obviously told someone that this station was very much not in the mould of Bloomberg and the station was closed down. I sometimes feel as if my approach as editor of the channel was just as it was in setting about writing the novels."
From there, it was out of the frying pan and into the fire. Returning to the BBC where he had worked as a producer for a number of years, he found himself at the Today programme under one editor - Rod Liddle - who resigned and then under no editor, just as the question of Weapons of Mass Destruction led up to unprecedented resignations by the Director General and Governor's Chairman of the BBC.
"Today was a hell of a place to work. Liddle may have been quite mad but he was a startlingly original editor. When I came back after being editor of a whole station, I was dreading Television Centre. I expected it to be staffed full of the usual wire-copiers whose idea of originality in journalism stretched as far as a vox pop. Rod was very different and he recruited staff that were inspired enough to take on the Government spin machine with relish. The whole David Kelly disaster was terrible. Even more so for our realising how little power the Today programme could, in the end, exert when it came to stopping the madness of the Iraq war."
Apart from the final novel, which reads as a Scoop for the twenty-first century, Rattansi's characters are usually doomed in love, either because of distances, class or the overpowering pressures of life in London. But this isn't Bridget Jones. There's a real anomie in the characters - whether they are drinking champagne or sitting injured in cardboard boxes - which recalls Beckett as much as F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Christopher MacLehose, the publisher of Richard Ford, Haruki Murakami, Georges Perec and José Saramago, said that he could still feel the force of "The Dream of the Decade." The novels are not historical. The evocation of London, in particular, is as palpable as in Peter Ackroyd's biography of the city. Sometimes, it is to the capital city as Bukowski's prose was to Los Angeles - indeed the Barfly himself read it and found it uplifting. At other times it is strictly Waugh. Whereas most journalists' fiction demonstrates that being a hack is an Enemy of Promise, Rattansi creates big characters who we feel for because he examines the minutiae of their emotions. But, as one would expect from someone who covered the fall of the Berlin Wall and who worked at the controversial Arabic satellite TV station, Al Jazeera, the themes are far from small.
From Al Jazeera?
Publishers of Amis, Rushdie, McEwan, Murakami, Saramago, Ackroyd, Tremain and Theroux praise former Al Jazeera journalist
for new collection of novels published in one volume under the title "The Dream of the Decade".
For the first time, a journalist from Al Jazeera has published a work of fiction - though the Arabic Tv station's detractors
might have it another way. The Dream of the Decade - a quartet of novels - is out in one volume published by U.S.
publisher, Booksurge. It's a big tome that charts the lives of Londoners when the gaps between rich and poor are inexorably
rising, even as the lives of the rich are becoming fabulously wealthy.
Released on 1 February 2006, it treats the fear and loathing of terrorism only in one novel, head on, in an account of
Londoners trapped in a bar during a bombscare. Though there is no mention of Al Qaeda, it is the background of the author
that makes one think that the fear is post 9/11.
The book itself is praised by Dan Franklin, publisher of Martin Amis, Salman Rushdie and Ian McEwan who says that Rattansi
"captures the atmosphere of the late 1980s." Christopher MacLehose, the publisher of Richard Ford, Haruki Murakami, Georges
Perec and José Saramago, said that he could still feel the force of "The Dream of the Decade."
It's no wonder as the ambitions of the novels are large. The first and title novel charts the downfall of a stereotypical
working-class-made-good-under-Thatcher yuppie as he begins to learn what British society lost as it gained. The third is
about Londoners' - and even Los Angeles-residents' - perplexing relationship with property. The final novel, entitled, "Good
Morning, Britain" examines the travails of an ingenue at a big television station, learning and prospering as he produces
news for the populace. It should be noted that Rattansi produced for the BBC's Today programme which was caught up in the
Weapons of Mass Destruction fiasco when Andrew Gilligan reported that the British government has "sexed up" a dossier to
persuade the UK parliament to vote for the Iraq War.
Rattansi worked on Al Jazeera's flagship programme, "Top Secret" and given the Arabic language station's ability to source
material where no media outlet has contacts, one can only imagine what assignments the author must have undertaken. He won a
Sony Award for his outstanding contribution to media in 2002, shortly after setting up an international 24 hour news station
in the Middle East. The quartet begins with a reflection by one of the female characters in the book, the love of the first
novel's protaganist, as she holidays in the Maldives ahead of the Asian Tsunami. It is when you imagine the scope of such a
book, its themes, its politics and its emotional range allied to the quality of writing which impressed so many of Britain's
arbiters of literary prowess, that you begin to understand what an event publication of "The Dream of the Decade - The London Novels" really is.
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