Among the more than one hundred characters peopling the pages of The End of the World News, Dr. Valentine Brodie, a renegade university lecturer hungering for imperfection in life and sex, emerges as the novel’s protagonist and its commentator-for, uncannily, Brodie has himself written a science-fiction book about the end of the world, on which he lectures: “This, I think, is what our genre is about-the ways in which ordinary human beings respond to exceptional circumstances imposed unexpectedly upon them.” He is also the character through whose eyes the last months of the world are most intensely and most compassionately observed. His friendship with Willett springs from both men’s love for the richness of language and the nightlife of the city-a life which, nevertheless, they observe inevitably from a detached and intellectual, upper-class angle, even while they take their cherished mudbath in it. It is Willett who salvages the Freud and Trotsky videodiscs, because, as he himself says, “I am on them, though admittedly in rather small parts”-as Freud’s first follower, Dr. Adler, and the “extra” Bokharin.
This clever literary sleight of hand thus makes the two other texts into stories within the science-fiction story of The End of the World News (and thus legitimizes the title). Willett, however, is more than a structural linchpin in the novel. Poetic justice and a harsh rejection of nostalgia are meted out when Willett, who shoots the...
(The entire section is 555 words.)