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“They were going to a party, a big party, a party that would later be written up and cried down as a social event. One of the passengers had been invited; the other not. One of the passengers was considered, in certain circles, an important person; the other not. Yet it was this second person who was to change many lives, and most of all her own, because of her presence that night.”

“It was one of the mysteries of Sponge’s life that, though famously unsuccessful with women – and there was scarcely a woman in his circle who had not experienced the notorious ‘Sponge Lunge’ – he also owed his meteoric rise to them.”

“ ‘Novelists,’ said Ivo, ‘are to the nineties what cooks were to the eighties, hairdressers to the seventies and pop-stars to the sixties… Merely, you know, an expression of the Zeitgeist, Nobody actually reads novels any more, but it’s a fashionable thing to be  a novelist – as long as you don’t entertain people of course. I sometimes think,’ said Ivo, his eyes like industrial diamonds, ‘that my sole virtue is, I’m the only person in London who has no intention of writing any kind of novel, ever.’”

“For fifteen years its distressed walls, eccentric chefs and pretty waitresses have passed into urban legend. Actors in West End hits, painters with East End misses, journalists short of a story, models long in the tooth, authors on the razzle, agents on the dazzle, politicians in a frazzle, they all congregate there. It is said that its name was inspired by ‘The Second Coming’; and certainly, if you wish to participate in the millennial whirl of ambition, distraction, vilification and derision that constitutes a certain kind of London life, the Slouch Club can scarcely be bettered.”

 “Ivo knew what song the sirens sang, and was younger than the rock-stars with which he sat. He had heard the voice of London that lives and breathes beneath the rumble of traffic, a voice like the continual high-pitched shriek you hear when you put your head beneath the waves of the sea. It is the sound of millions and millions of creatures living and struggling and dying and being born. It commands those who hear it to eat or be eaten; and Ivo had no intention of becoming anyone’s prey.”

“It is but a glimpse of the world of poverty we can afford this same winter’s evening. It is not a large world, though as it avoids census-takers, it is hard to tell its precise size. Its people are invisible, except when the more desperate or enterprising impinge on the purses of those such as Ivo or Amelia. Relative to this world of ours, it is a very little speck. There is much good in it, and some think it has its appointed place, But it is a world too much wrapped up in hopeless hopes, and cannot hear the rushing of the larger worlds, or see them as they circle round the sun.”

“There was a certain usefulness in having a husband whom most people could barely tolerate: it deflected envy, for one thing.”

“Every profession is an island whose inhabitants earn a precarious living by taking in each other’s washing.”

“Ivo was there to uphold the impression that the Chronicle’s books pages was no merely a small room staffed by two incompetent females and a boulevardier with a second-class degree but an Olympian fortress of considered opinion, from which even a thunderbolt of extreme prejudice was better than none.”

“Very happy or unhappy, people disappear.”

“A hundred years ago, people had perfectly understood that you could die of a broken heart, now they thought you were making a fuss about nothing…Certain kinds of suffering are like radiation: they cause furious growth and mutation of the inner self.”

“Whenever I see a small woman I want to rest my drink on her head.”

“For over a year, the money that had been keeping London in motion had stopped ascending and descending like the handle of a spinning-top. Some said this handle had become too hot, so that it could no longer move smoothly or efficiently; some that it was suffering from metal fatigue. Some that the wrong hands at the Exchequer were pumping it, at the wrong time. Heads rolled, faces changed, knuckles were rapped and reputations plummeted – it made little difference. The great teetotum that had spun serenely on its axis for over a decade began to wobble in wider and wider orbits, crashing into lives that had never before known poverty or unease. The recession had come to London.”

“’Just about the worst thing an artist can do is to try and be a nice person.’

 “Few pretty and privileged young women really understand the essential injustice of biology…For most of her life as a woman, the rules were perfectly clear cut: other women were the enemy, and all love was war. She had rejected feminism, quite openly, as a crutch for the envious and ugly, and regarded married women as holding the upper hand if, unlike her own mother, they had any strength of character. The weaknesses and dependencies imposed by fecundity had never entered into her calculations.”

“The idea that Oxbridge graduates spend their time helping each other is a complete myth, You don’t get in if you’re not fantastically competitive, and the people you compete against are your peers.”

“Hatred bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

“In London, address is destiny.”

Ivo on how to review: “‘Skim, my darling, skim…You read the first chapter, the last chapter, and the blurb….That’s why real pros put all their best effort into the beginning and ends of books. You can’t possibly be expected to read every word; reviewers are paid far too little for it to be worth their while…. After all, what is any kind of review but free advertising?’”