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Nicola Barker s ninth novel The Yips takes its title from the slang word used to describe the medical term focal dystonia which basically boils down to a loss of the control over fine motor skills without any explainable reason Most notably in sports such as golf goll oll llolf it causes shaky hands which can lead to an inability to perform, forcing some players to readjust their game to compensate for the deficiency and others still to throw in the towel and call it a day Stuart Ransom, he s recently developed a nasty case of the yips.Ransom is a crude ex surfer turned professional golfer who s no stranger to controversy Nearly bankrupt and on a downward slide, he finds himself thirty miles north of London in the town of Luton claim to fame hat making where he s getting ready to take part in an upcoming tournament As the novel opens he finds himself in a hotel bar conversing with Gene, a seven time cancer survivor to be fair it was only ever terminal the one time and the teenage Jen who possesses the uncanny ability to effortlessly bullshit anyone about anything at any time As the novel progresses it s hard to ascertain exactly what Jen s playing at, but her character is in many ways the glue that binds the novel together and she is far and away the most over the top, amusing member of the bunch.READ MORE You know when you see a book in the bookshop and its cover makes it stand out a bit, so you pick it up, read the blurb which sounds interesting notwithstanding the reference to scatological humour and is chock full of great reviews then turn to a random page and it s ok, readable enough, so you think I ll take a punt and you lash out eight quid, get it home and read the first page and think, well, the page I read in the bookshop was ok, so maybe it ll pick up, and then you reach that page and you realise that, in context, it s actually absolute shit like the rest of it That.Self indulgent, witless, cartoonish, dull No wonder it s so difficult to get published when agents, publishers and reviewers think drivel like this should be gracing our shelves I despair. Is A Foreign Country They Do Things Differently There Tiger Woods Reputation Is Entirely Untarnished And The English Defence League Does Not Exist Yet Storm Clouds Of A Different Kind Are Gathering Above The Bar Of Luton S Less Than Exclusive Thistle Hotel I approached The Yips by Nicola Barker with a certain amount of caution It is a large book almost 550 pages from an author with a reputation for experimental writing and from its title seemed to be set around the game of Golf, or to be precise on a Golfer When I finished it, I felt significantly positive it was an entertaining read which seemed shorter than its page length, always a good sign It has now been long listed for this year s Booker prize and seems to be one of the favourites to progress onto the shortlist Hopefully, this will help to draw it to the attention of a wider readership The Yips refers to the disabling twitch which some golfers develop when attempting short putts, usually a sign of anxiety or psychological stress In order to deal with this they will frequently switch from a standard putter to a long belly putter in an effort to compensate The central character of this novel, Stuart Ransom, has such an affliction, although it is one of the least of his many problems He has a colourful and unrealistic back story, but has become a flamboyant and successful professional golfer, greatly loved by the tabloid press and forever embroiled in one scandal or another As we meet him, his golfing career seems to be on downward trajectory to disaster The development of The Yips is symptomatic of this, but in the context of the novel provides a metaphor for the many other flaws possessed by him and by almost all of the other characters with whom he interacts.Among these are a man who has had cancer seven times, his wife a priest given to outbursts of bizarre and erratic behaviour and the family of a notorious local fascist On a previous visit to the town, Ransom managed to hit the fascist s wife on the head with a stray golf ball, leading to an ongoing public feud with her son Meanwhile, her daughter has become an agoraphobic recluse, making a living as a hyperrealist tattooist of pubic hair for mainly far Eastern clients Mixed in with these eccentrics is an ever present barmaid with multiple personas, a freethinking Islamic sex therapist and his family and Ransom s long suffering entourage It is a heady mix which works successfully than you might expect from my descriptions.Towards the end of the novel there is a section where two of the characters discuss what life is like Mainly consisting of stuff they conclude All sorts of stuff, piled up fairly randomly and sometimes threatening to fall over, at which point everyone starts to build it up again To an extent, this sums up Barker s writing style and in particular the plot development in this novel But it works it made me laugh in places and provoked a few ideas and thoughts worth pursuing It represents an easier introduction to her work than her previous Booker prize listed novel Darkmans Recommended. As much as I enjoyed the style of writing, the story itself really seemed to go nowhere, and I found it going on and on by the end Still, a charming read. What waste of time Too many characters in which there is no emotional involvement, a plot that is so idiotic and convoluted that it s not worth the bother with Booker contender Don t make me laugh Not only that, it was so crap it killed my Kindle An enjoyable fun read.It has been interesting to compare my experience with other reviewers, both here an on , especially those who have rated the book poorly Part way through, I realised that the book I was most reminded of was Gormenghast Nicola Baker may seem to set her books in the real world, e.g Luton, but it isn t our world Her characters are not real people but often grotesques, with exaggerated qualities and faults You either decide to dive in and live in the world of her imagination or you don t I suspect that trying to fit her world into your idea of the real Luton would never work How could there ever be a meter reader who only ever seems to visit one house and then never needs to clock on and read meters the next day In an unreal world that isn t a problem.I read Darkmans, her last but one novel, on holiday a few years ago and enjoyed it, but I remember it s strangeness and struggling slightly with it I might have to get it off the shelf and see how it compares to The Yips Barker deliberately keeps important information from the reader and then drops it into a conversation pages later, so about 200 pages in, you suddenly discover why things happened, or were said, in the early pages But, as I said, if you have decided to accept Baker s world, this isn t a problem Gradually the different threads begin to pull together, and gradually the reader begins to know than the characters, who continue to misunderstand and misinterpret each other.I quite enjoyed the fact that there is no clean ending with all loose ends tied neatly the rest of the book isn t neat, why should the ending be However, there is a sense of conclusion with various moments of crisis passed, but whether any of the proposed futures given for any of the characters would actually transpire is left for the reader to guess.There is much silliness and almost farce within the pages of The Yips, but what lifts it onto Booker longlists is the darkness it also contains There is monstrous egotism, rage, fear, faith, doubt and, above all, struggling with life and death.If I could, I would give it 4.5 stars. I did not like this book, although that does not mean it is not a good book or worth reading..and I did catch myself laughing out loud several times, to the point where tears were running down my face It is difficult for me to pinpoint, why I didn t like The Yips I did not mind the sense of huh at the end, the foul language, the apparent randomness In fact, I think one of the characters Jen summarises The Yips quite well Most of it is just ideas, just chatter This big, stupid, inane conversation blaring in your ear which is determined to draw you in And either you despise it or you embrace it That s entirely up to you, of course What is intriguing, and why I think the book has merit is that underneath and in between the crudeness and lunacy, Barker quite insightfully discusses the human condition, particularly the identity, psychology and relationships of women Despite the fact that on the face of it, the book is about or at least revolves around men, particularly an ageing golfer, The Yips is about women and not simply women defining themselves in terms of men, but women struggling to shape and reshape themselves as powerful leaders, daughters, spiritual beings, mothers, lovers, sisters, people..Perhaps what is so disconcerting about the book, for me at least, is the way I unexpectedly confronted myself the good, the bad and the ugly Without realising it Almost by accident I found myself in each of the womenand this is why I give four stars to a book I did not, necessarily like I suspect The Yips will continue to grow on me or me from it. J.D Wetherspoon the Novel Save yourself the trouble of reading this by watching a non consecutive reel of Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps or some forgotten early nineties sitcom Be sure to look away from the screen, to accurately evoke the need to understand everything though dialogue Sit back and dream of it all ending This is quite the biggest pile of horseshit I have read in many years and I ve read Darkmans , the last Booker longlisted Nicola Barker That it is widely being described as a great comic novel once again demonstrates the weird hyperinflation we see in the comedy fiction world outside fiction, a lazy, piss poor bit of humour is called a dad joke In contemporary British fiction, a lazy, piss poor bit of humour is called blisteringly funny full of belly laughs fizzes with wit and invention The dialogue 97% of the content is insufferable, and offers very little guide to character or nuance The hallmark, for me, of really bad comic novel dialogue is interruptions and deliberate misunderstandings I said she s coming this afternoon , Who s coming this afternoon She is , Who s she This is full of that, and it s exhausting Another giveaway bad dialogue tic is punctuating conversations with eating and drinking She took a bite of out her biscuit he took a small sip of his cup of tea And, boy, those characters I just did not care I cared no than I would care about the next move in an overheard mobile phone conversation on a train between two blokes discussing a DIY project They re wooden of course Sure, the Ransom character is a credible evocation of contemporary Clarkson man in the pub clich but I can get that anywhere The Jamaican manager is just sloppy and faintly racist It s not merely that the characters are bloodless they re just arbitrary, as if constructed using a dice throwing, paper folding exercise Gogol turns a man into giant nose for a purpose Why is Gene married to a lady priest Why do we care about Jen why are they even listening to her I remember reading in an essay on character by James Wood possibly himself citing Henry James that characters are really formed by interaction with other characters At no point did I believe in the interactions here There were moments where, say, the wife of Gene would talk about Jen a 19 year old barmaid and I would be screaming Why would she care about Jen Why would she care about the manager of a golfer she has never met Why are they all speaking as if they are intimately involved with each other, when there is nothing to suggest that they are Tellingly, there s a young man called Israel in there too who is suddenly a concern for all I was wondering if he s a homage to the hero of Ian Sanson s execrable Mobile Library series, that this reminds me so much of It is often said in praise of Nicola Barker that she does the kind of place that we don t normally see in English fiction She takes us beyond the French villas and middle class settings that longlists always play back This was said about Darkmans re Kent Romney Marsh and is now being said about Luton, re this She s doing Luton or provincial England perhaps like Alan Sillitoe does Nottingham or Patrick Hamilton does Earls Court Let us be clear there is nothing Luton here, beyond a citation or two of the name There is nothing here of place That middle class readers think Thistle Hotel is enough to evoke a Luton speaks volumes about how narrow the frame of reference UK fiction has I could go on but I, luckily, know when to stop If this was a sitcom, Dave wouldn t run it Not even in the 4am slot. I d never read Barker before and I doubt I ever will again This book was like spending several days in the company of one of those self consciously wacky , trying way too hard to be eccentric girls we all knew in college All of Barker s characters are a jumble of extreme traits agoraphobic gorgeous burlesque dressing tattooist of pubic hair descended from Nazis really , to give but one example but none are real people, although all are tedious The book is also written almost entirely in dialogue, and all of Barker s lovable oddballs have one thing in common they talk way too much, with all the banal repetition and flat vocabulary of actual speech It makes the book a fast read, but not a particularly pleasurable one There are lots of zany screwball set pieces, several coincidences and a certain amount of dwelling on identity, but none of it adds up to a plot Awful.