Risible Authenticity

Before attempting a wider exploration of official advertisements appearing in novels, it may be worth considering the unofficial type: i.e. that which is instigated by the novelist him/herself. By this I mean references in the text to specific brands or objects, usually presented in such a way as to tempt the reader to procure said brand or object.

Several examples spring, like the frantic frog, to mind. How many novels have we read in which the protagonist, locked in some sort of spiritual crisis, finds himself repeatedly mooching over to the fridge to sip a nice cool glass of Coca-Cola/Tiger Beer/Camp Coffee? Later on, undressing for bed, our hero takes off his Levi Jeans/Nike Trainers/BHS underwear and crawls into his Ikea Bed. Such details give the novel what the writer might call ‘authenticity’. They just as often strike a false note.

Sometimes two writers have been known to engage in mutual back-scratching. This was recently seen in two novels: Franz Hoffer’s Lukewarm Nights and Aliana Gruët’s The Right Way Up. In one scene in the former book, a hysterically intelligent and good-looking women is seen to be reading Gruët’s book on a train. In a similar scene in the latter a risibly wise and handsome man is found in a park reading Hoffer’s. We have come to expect such things from critics (who are always praising the books of friends in the hope of receiving similar treatment in return). But in novels?

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