PILLARS OF FIRE
|I hear this sort of thing will help me shift copies??|
April and Shohreh are two best friends making their way in London - Shoreditch, enjoying the trendiest retro coffee houses, neon-lighted cocktail basements, and art-bar cum avant-garde jelly installations. April seduces a man called Joe Sedley by tasting his curry. Whilst Shohreh is looking for a deep bond with a man – she takes up Tango which becomes a metaphor for a man and a woman in perfect synchronicity with one another. She embarks on a passionate and fulfilling relationship with her incredibly handsome dance partner Dainton Daftari, as she explores her true sexual desires in a series of dreams, dances and escapades.
Pillars of Fire is a novel which explores the semiotics of fashion: it is interested in how women dress as a non-verbal language for communicating and bonding with one another. And also exploits the potential for comic situations arising from men mis-construing fashion statements. The world of Pillars is a world where seemingly all we have is the surface of the body – clothes as an interface between the inner world of women and the outer-world: the inner world is controllable by the individual, but the outer world is seemingly a free-for-all, subject to any kind of interpretation and mis-interpretion, in a world where the female body is peculiarly vulnerable. Pillars is a novel concerned with how men and women strive to find deep communication. It considers whether this is possible or even necessary; and whether romantic love is the same thing as human understanding?
At the heart of Pillars of Fire is a clash of world-views as played out through items of clothing: All the right-leaning characters have one item of body-adornment that represents who they are (John Renfrew has a pocket hankerchief – old-school, gentlemanly values; Yalda owns the classic Louis Vuitton handbag – Arabic, status symbol, classic style; and Tobias Prince always wears a tweed jacket – tradition, inherited wealth, old-boy network). Taking all these varying forms of conservatism on, single-handedly, is Shohreh – who does not have one item of clothing associated with her, but constantly changes her clothing and body adornment according to mood, anticipated event, or weather conditions. Her dressing represents a left-wing politics that requires constant vigilance and engagement with the world: It is brave.
The group of friends (Shohreh, Tobias, April, Naomi – and various other secondary characters) move through a series of social events – from intimate meetings (coffee, lunch, modern art-gallery visits) to bigger social occasions such as house parties, flashmobbing and slut-walking. The social events are presented as a series of un-related experiences that follow in furious, high-octane succession. The human or social event is privileged in the novel – it doesn’t matter that it passes. We just do it again. Also an important aspect is gender – tropes of ephemerality (vapour, powder, changing cloud patterns) are associated with the fluidity of female bodily desire. Shohreh has sex - desire is sated – but it doesn’t matter – she just does it again. The novel presents an aesthetic that is anti-clinging to objects, and to an anachronistic, ‘warm-bath’ and sanitized vision of the past (Downton Abbey, The Paradise); and pro-having the strength and energy to engage with a Britain and global-situation that is complex, painful and difficult.