Arts & Entertainment: Sunday, October 01, 2000
'Love Hexagon' is brutal, witty
By Mark Lindquist
A United Kingdom best seller, this satirical sex farce has a clear target audience: twentysomething Londoners. Comparisons to Evelyn Waugh are inevitable, at least the Waugh of the "Bright Young Things" stage, but for contemporary American readers, the more apt comparison may be the sitcom "Friends."
Sutcliffe's writing is smarter and wittier than "Friends," the situations are more real and involving, and of course Sutcliffe has that dry Brit style going for him. On the other hand, Sutcliffe's characters are even more neurotic and annoying than the dim-witted cast of "Friends."
Lisa and Guy are "the old married couple," though they are not married; Josh, Lisa's co-worker, is the pathetic one; Keri, the tart who carelessly crushes men's hearts, is the good-looking one, Graham, Guy's sidekick and drinking buddy, is the comic one; and Helen, Guy's friend, is the equally familiar angst-ridden one.
Reduced to types, these characters sound like clichés of their age group, but Sutcliffe injects them with life. His dialogue is first rate, his insights brutally incisive and his mercy nearly nonexistent.
One of the potential shortcomings of satire is a lack of forgiveness for human foibles, and Sutcliffe can be especially unsparing. I began wondering if he really loathes his contemporaries. The leniency Sutcliffe showed his self-involved hero in "Are you experienced," his first novel, is missing here, at least until the end.
While the other characters are left in uncertain lurches, Guy and Helen meet up in the Greek Islands for a minor epiphany. This scene - like much of the book - is screenplay-like in its visual appeal and unstated implications. We're swept out of the literal and metaphorical claustrophobia of urban life into a larger world of possibilities, and Sutcliffe shows that he doesn't really despise his peers, or at least not all of them.