First, there is the obligatory peeing scene. What is it about male characters of a certain age that we must, within pages of meeting them, accompany them to the toilet for a pee? In Nice Work, we get two paragraphs of peeing a mere page after we first encounter middle-aged executive Victor Wilcox. To be fair, it’s not Lodge’s fault that I’m weary of this. It’s the first time I’ve witnessed it in one of his books, and the other examples that come to mind are from novels that were published later (Mordecai Richler’s Barney’s Version and Ian McEwan’s Saturday). Nevertheless, I would prefer to have the protagonist’s humanity/vulnerability signalled to me in a more novel way.
Shortly after the peeing ceases, Vic shaves, and he is described to us as he appears to himself in the mirror. Is this not unforgivably cliché? The sort of thing that creative writing students are told to avoid at all costs?
Finally, at the close of the first chapter, there is the ridiculous breast simile. Vic has a colleague who is a bit of a stage mother and she is forever pressing the portfolio of her would-be model daughter upon him. On the morning that the novel opens, Vic is startled by recent, um, developments in the latest set of photographs:
The pouting weak-chinned face under the blonde curls is familiar enough, but the two huge naked breasts, thrust towards the camera like pink blancmanges tipped with cherries, are a new departure.”
Pink blancmanges tipped with cherries? I admit that I have very little experience with blancmange and it may well be customarily served in a distinctive breast-like shape. But a wobbly pudding doesn’t strike me as a particularly apt comparison for seventeen-year-old breasts. And I could have done without the cherries. I have yet to see nipples that approximate the shape or the colour of cherries.
Here too though it’s not so much this particular passage that gets to me as it is the ubiquity of such ridiculous breast similes in contemporary fiction. I won’t offer up further examples as I’m sure the above-quoted passage will bring me more than enough misdirected google traffic on its own—visitors who will no doubt be as dissatisfied with what they find here as I am with the first chapter of Nice Work.