X

Create an account to continue reading.

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles
For unlimited access to The Spectator, subscribe below

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles

Sign in to continue

Already have an account?

What's my subscriber number?

Subscribe now from £1 a week

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
 
View subscription offers

Already a subscriber?

or

Subscribe now for unlimited access

ALL FROM JUST £1 A WEEK

View subscription offers

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Login

Don't have an account? Sign up
X

Subscription expired

Your subscription has expired. Please go to My Account to renew it or view subscription offers.

X

Forgot Password

Please check your email

If the email address you entered is associated with a web account on our system, you will receive an email from us with instructions for resetting your password.

If you don't receive this email, please check your junk mail folder.

X

It's time to subscribe.

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access – from just £1 a week

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
X

Sign up

What's my subscriber number? Already have an account?

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Your subscriber number is the 8 digit number printed above your name on the address sheet sent with your magazine each week.

Entering your subscriber number will enable full access to all magazine articles on the site.

If you cannot find your subscriber number then please contact us on customerhelp@subscriptions.co.uk or call 0330 333 0050.

You can create an account in the meantime and link your subscription at a later time. Simply visit the My Account page, enter your subscriber number in the relevant field and click 'submit changes'.

Please note: Previously subscribers used a 'WebID' to log into the website. Your subscriber number is not the same as the WebID. Please ensure you use the subscriber number when you link your subscription.

Books

Speeding along the highway

31 March 2012

10:00 AM

31 March 2012

10:00 AM

Under the Same Stars Tim Lott

Simon & Schuster, pp.341, 16.99

Back in the Sixties, if you wanted a fruitful, freakout-free LSD experience, you might have called on Mrs Aldous Huxley in Los Angeles, where she lived as a beatifically attuned Buddhist adept until her death in 2007. Aldous Huxley, her husband, had emigrated to America 70 years earlier in search of spiritual solace and the ‘benediction’ offered by psychotropic drugs. Evelyn Waugh was not alone in thinking that the States had driven Huxley dotty. Jim Morrison, the psychedelic Frank Sinatra, named his California band The Doors after Huxley’s crackpot hymn to the mescaline experience, The Doors of Perception.

Tim Lott’s sixth novel, Under the Same Stars, dilates entertainingly on British attitudes to America as a supermarket for far-out fads and Huxley-like cults. Henry Nash, a disaffected Englishman, had left for New Mexico 30 years ago, having abandoned his wife and two sons to their home in suburban north London. (Like Huxley, he had ‘lost his way’.) Little is heard of Henry from then on. One day his oldest son Carson decides to follow in his footsteps and embrace the American life in New Orleans as a born-again Christian. He has no or very little contact there with his fugitive father.

[Alt-Text]


In 2008, on the eve of the world banking crisis, Carson receives a phone call from his younger brother Salinger in London. Estranged by sibling rivalry, they have not spoken in years. Salinger says he wants to go off in search of his father in America; Carson cautiously agrees to accompany him. What follows is a Thelma and Louise-like road novel, in which the wide open spaces of America are vividly etched. As the brothers drive through cacti-prickly desert and the Texas plains, their distinct personalities emerge. Salinger, morose and withdrawn, affects to dislike the wholesome living and open skies of the American dream, while Carson embodies a detergent-clean optimism and belief in elasticated waistbands and Cheestrings. As his spiffy new Lexus glides comfortably along the highway, the mellow denim sounds of Crosby, Stills and Nash waft from the car radio.  

In the course of their quest, the brothers bicker constantly and sometimes cruelly. (‘You crying, Sal? Man, you’re such a fricking girl.’) Before long, mishaps occur. Carson runs over and kills a dog; then his Lexus gets stolen from a steak-house car park. On Salinger’s prompting he rents a motorbike. The novel gathers emotional momentum as the brothers, astride their Triumph, get closer to their father. In spite of his Christianity and church-going ‘massage therapist’ wife LouLou, Carson is shown to have a violent past which he is at pains to conceal from his brother. What lies beneath his sincere Christian smile?

Lott, by inclination a confessional writer, is drawn to stories of family discontent. Under the Same Stars, a tender-hearted novel of sibling rivalries, is no less memorable than his family memoir The Scent of Dried Roses. Very occasionally the therapist’s couch shows in the prose (‘A single thought drifted into the slipstream of his understanding’); otherwise the writing is sharp as a tack and unfailingly fun to read.  

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.


Show comments
Close