THE BOOK: New York is in the grip of a murderous heatwave, the city is full of fires and street corner preachers are proclaiming the Apocalypse. In this burning season, four lives come together at Ferdousine's Zoo, a sanctuary for exotic birds and snakes: Kate Root, a reformed psychic who was once a child visionary; Willie D a young Puerto Rican hustler in pursuit of status and repect; Anna, a belly dancer and human telegram; and John Joe, a black Irishman, newly arrived from Donegal. Meanwhile, the city goes on burning and in the subways a sect called the Black Swans has forgathered, awaiting the last days.
"A grand tour of the fringes of functioning society in England . . . A masterpiece of good writing, human sympathy and fine, understated characterisation . . . Affectionately teasing his subjects, as Dickens does, [Cohn] achieves more for them than hero-worship or vilification ever could."--Independent on Sunday Forget about cricket, tea with the vicar and the changing of the guard (and about the much-hyped Cool Britannia as well), and encounter a hidden nation--the many millions who've fallen out of the mainstream, or chosen to jump. Nik Cohn's kaleidoscopic England is made up of techno-freaks and soccer-obsessives, faith healers and fetishists, graffiti artists, Odinists, Rastas, Elvis impersonators, even the Antichrist. Armed with insatiable curiosity and guided by Mary Carson, an unstoppable Irish firebrand, Cohn whirls from the changing countryside of Cornwall and East Anglia to the ravaged postindustrial North, from riotous seaside towns to London netherworlds. Whether rampaging native or second-generation immigrant, each member of this remarkable chorus has a distinct story and a voice to match, and their lives define a world cut loose from tradition and all certainty. Gone bananas, in fact. "Triumphantly [exposing] England's underbelly in all its grotesque glory, Cohn has the kind of empathetic imagination that can locate and communicate the residual beauty in damaged human beings. He transcribes their whirling thoughts and fantasies into a considered and elegiac poetry." --Financial Times "England has never seemed so strange, so poignant, or so exhilarating . . . Perhaps it is his own sense of displacement--born in Ireland, raised in England and nowresident in America--that lends Cohn a natural sympathy for the outsider. His great gift is not simply his extravagant, firecracker prose, but an ability to insinuate himself into the confidence and under the skin of his subjects; to dissect their foibles, yet leave them with their humanity and dignity intact." --Daily Telegraph "From the Hardcover edition."