Liars and Saintsby Maile MeloyJohn Murray, £14.99, pp. 260, ISBN 0719566444
Darien Dogsby Henry ShukmanJonathan Cape, £12.99, pp. 279, ISBN 022407282
‘Short’ as Peter Dimock’s potent novel about the Vietnam war may be, it packs a not insignificant punch. The curious title is to be taken literally: this really is a ‘rhetoric’, in the classical sense, and the point on which it wishes to persuade is indeed ‘leaving the family’.
For, on the eve of the first Gulf war, Jarleth Lanham writes a letter to his two adoptive ‘sons’, intended to be read when they come of age in 11 years’ time (which takes us unwittingly to September 2001, just to hot up the political spice). Pledging them nearly a million dollars, Jarleth’s ‘purpose’, as he writes, ‘is solely to provide you with the means of leaving the family entirely, should you desire to do so — to provide you, in other words, with some speech for another history’.