Willy Muller is a truly horrible person His wife died from a fall that may or may not have resulted from him shoving her One of his daughters won t talk to him and the other one also estranged
Willy Muller is a truly horrible person. His wife died from a fall that may, or may not, have resulted from him shoving her. One of his daughters won’t talk to him, and the other one, also estranged, committed suicide. One of her last acts before ending her life was to send Willy 11 years of her journals, and he responds to the posthumous package with deep callousness. “She had succumbed to the sentimentalities of leave-taking,” he says. “Christ, isn’t life hard enough without that sort of hokey melodrama?”Yet Willy’s very horribleness is part of what makes this novel so entertaining. He walks through the world in a haze of self-absorption, making mean-spirited observations about the people around him that are also quite funny.He had a long arrow-nose and almost no lips—his mouth was just an unannounced slit in the final third of his face, like a muppet’s. OrShe was flushed and fat and she wore a big, peasant style dress that looked as if it had been blown on to her by chance during a violent storm. He doesn’t even spare himself from his own cruel wit.I have grown obsessed with my withering body…My belly, oh God, my belly. I have noticed it swerving away, settling in a puddle of flesh at my side. In the mornings, I wake to find it lying next to me, gazing up at me, like an affectionate haggis. Willy’s curmudgeonly rantings might get too one-note if it weren’t for the novel’s other protagonist: his deceased daughter Sadie. As Willy reads her journals, we see someone as shiny and innocent as he is jaded. In later entries, she begins making the series of choices that will lead up to her suicide, and the tension between Sadie’s guileless optimism and the death that we know is coming gives the novel a lot of its momentum.Zoe Heller is a powerful writer with a gift for creating unsympathetic characters moving toward imperfect redemption. Everything You Know is her first novel, and while it lacks the depth of her later work--Notes on a Scandal and The Believers—it’s a highly enjoyable read. The best Everything You Know Creat Zoë Heller is a Book I am bad A bad, bad man, Willy Muller tells us, and on first evidence the reader might be inclined to agree A suspected murderer and a confirmed hack, the protagonist of Everything You Know is a Hollywood style bottom feeder with no evident sense of shame In London, years ago, Willy went to prison for killing his wife Once released on appeal, he alienated his few rem I am bad A bad, bad man, Willy Muller tells us, and on first evidence the reader might be inclined to agree A suspected murderer and a confirmed hack, the protagonist of Everything You Know is a Hollywood style bottom feeder with no evident sense of shame In London, years ago, Willy went to prison for killing his wife Once released on appeal, he alienated his few remaining friends by writing a tell all memoir of his married life before making the natural progression to churning out second rate sleb bios The crap just bubbles out of me, uncorrupted, Willy muses, half proud, half appalled Bad writing is my gift Did Willy kill his wife Or did she hit her head in a fall Either way, he is still alarmingly full of bile, raging against a world populated by malignant dwarfs, trolls, and lipsticked ferrets When his daughter kills herself using pills, Willy counts his blessings after all, Sadie might have done herself in in any number of vulgar or grotesque ways The man even calls his dying German mother Herr Kommandant to her face Temporarily shacked up in Puerto Vallarta with his girlfriend, a cosmetic surgery victim who wears a perpetual expression of parched exhilaration, Willy takes his rage out on everyone around him, including himself In fact, he waxes almost loving about his own physical decay his skin with its ancient, battered look of fried liver, ears with a violet tinge at their curly edges, like exotic salad leaves, sagging belly gazing up at him like an affectionate haggis There are certainly pleasures to be found in this particular brand of literary nastiness, although Willy does pick some rather large and stationary targets agents, facelifts, pretentious directors with German accents, and so on Happily, debut novelist Zoe Heller has something larger in mind than the spectacle of a man savaging everything hateful in reach, and the book undergoes a subtle shift in tone midway through The medium is Sadie s diary, delivered to Willy s door four months after her death Written in a style as straightforward and affecting as Willy s is blustering and cruel, it describes a childhood of Dickensian loneliness and an adult life ruled by a heartbreaking and unsuccessful search for love At first Willy can t read without feeling terrible, fluttery pains in his gut Later, however, the diary elicits what is at least in Willy s terms a kind of moral thaw Only when you die do you run out of chances to be good Until then, there is always the possibility of turning yourself around, his accountant tells him, and amazingly, Willy pays heed Fortunately, for those of us who have come to enjoy his misanthropy, not too much heed to the bitter end, he can t help noting of his former sister in law, Boy, did her arse get big It s a mark of Heller s skill that we never stop caring about Willy, no matter how repulsive he seems half victim, half perpetrator, half German, half Jew, he muddles through life with a moral passivity that might resemble our own Everything You Know is a sharp, stylish, and wickedly funny first novel, but like its hero, it has real sadness concealed underneath Mary Park. Zoe Heller was born in London in 1965 and educated at Oxford University and Columbia University, New York She is a journalist who, after writing book reviews for various newspapers, became a feature writer for The Independent She wrote a weekly confessional column for the Sunday Times for four years, but now writes for the Daily Telegraph and earned the title Columnist of the Year in 2002 She is the author of three novels Everything You Know 2000 , a dark comedy about misanthropic writer Willy Miller, Notes on a Scandal 2003 which tells the story of an affair between a high school teacher and her student through the eyes of the teacher s supposed friend, Barbara Covett and her latest The Believers 2008 Zoe Heller lives in New York.. Good Kindle Everything You Know The first Zoe Heller novel I read, The Believers, left me manically scouring the library for more of her work. I found Everything You Know; a novel with characters easily as cringe-worthy as the Litvinoffs who feature in The Believers. It is the story of Willy Muller whose life has a delightful awfulness about it. Written in the first person narrative, Heller treats the reader to Willy's sarcastic, witty outlook, his superbly droll thoughts and wry observations. He has a dim-witted girlfriend, one daughter just wants to fleece him, the other has recently posted him her diaries and then committed suicide. He's been commissioned to write the screenplay for his book based on a most unfortunate incident in his life and to top it off, he's just had a heart attack. Willy deals with all these trials in a manner which is comically unrelenting: he has some truly memorable experiences in Mexico to where he escapes to write the aforementioned screenplay and some equally sad and pathetic moments in London when he visits to attend the funeral of his German-born English-resenting mother. Some of Willy's observations of his fellow characters were uproarious and had me laughing out loud:“ The first person to greet us was Sissy Yerxa, looking like a lipsticked ferret in a very short skirt and an electric pink halter-neck.”“He had a long arrow mouth and almost no lips – his mouth was just an unannounced slit in the final third of his face, like a muppet's.”Belatedly, Willy is offered the thought:“Only when you die do you run out of chances to be good. Until then, there is the possibility of turning yourself around”. And this is indeed a thought that Heller poses for the reader to consider. Even if your life situation is not as precarious as is Willy's, just when do your chances to redeem yourself run out? Ostensibly, I love Heller's warts and all portrayal of her character and that she provides no pretty window dressings in her novel. Everything You Know is indeed a tragi-comedy; a story which charmed me and made me wince in equal measures. A definite 4★. Note: my copy was Large Print.
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