A terribly amusing novel by Geoff Nicholson; the story of various people who work and shop and live in Haden Brothers, a vast London department store designed to look like Bruegel's Tower of Babel. Interwoven are the stories of:
- Arnold Haden, only surviving Haden Brother and eccentric recluse, who lives in the penthouse above the nine story emporium,
- Vita Carlisle, the perfect employee (until she decides to blow the place up),
- Edward Zander, the architect who built Haden Brothers (and who built for himself secret living quarters, tunnels, spyholes, and passageways throughout the building),
- ...and Charlie Mayhew, artist wannabe with no clearly defined message or medium, who starts out as a junior furniture porter and ends up on the lam, hiding out in Zander's long deserted secret world.
Geoff Nicholson would be a fan of pipe linking; each chapter bears a title that seems to relate to the contents of a store that boasts it contains Everything and More!--bedding, ties, knobs and knockers, exhibitions, outerwear--but that means something completely different in the context of the story.
This is the grown-up version of all those kid stories about being locked in the mall overnight--it's dark, and intelligent, and very funny.
It was perhaps in the nature of terrorism that terrorist acts should be irrational, inscrutable and above all unpredictable. The bomb in the school bus terrifies far more effectively than the one in the army barracks. Yet to launch an attack on a department store is surely not illogical.
Terrorism, it could be argued, is some late, dark and diseased flowering of dispossession. This dispossession may be crude or subtle but is inevitably concerned with history and economics. Terrorists inevitably feel unconnected to, uninvolved with, the society they choose to terrorize, even if that society is their own. They have no vested interests. They have nothing to lose. This is not where they make their home. They are just passing through.
The world of exchange, of transaction, of retailing, of the buying and selling of goods, the world of (for want of a better word) shopping is precisely one of connection and involvement. Shoppers have vested interests in what they buy. They have a lot to lose.
This, of course, sounds banal. Do freedom and democracy exist merely to safeguard such humdrum pleasures ad the joys of home and hearth, the new bedroom suite, the tea set, the picnic hamper? Well, on balance, probably yes. Perhaps that's what winning the war against terrorism buys us; the right to live in peace, to shop in peace, to gather to us those objects which make us feel secure and accommodated. It is the terrorist's avowed role to subvert that security and accommodation; and there are those who are stupid enough to say it is the artist's role too.*
*page 34, Geoff Nicholson, Everything and More, 1995, A Wyatt Book for St. Martin's Press, ISBN 0-312-13069-4. Copyright (c) by the Author.
Reprinted with permission from St. Martin's Press, LLC.