(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The central action of “State of England” takes place on the grounds of a private school not far from London. Big Mal is first seen talking on a mobile phone to his wife, from whom he is separated. He and his wife, Sheilagh, are both at the school for a sports day; their son Jet is to run in several races. Big Mal’s face is disfigured by a horrible cut, which he received when he and his friend Fat Lol fought with some people in a central London parking lot the night before.

Big Mal’s marriage is in trouble, and he is short of money. He married his son’s mother just the previous year, but five months ago, he left his wife and son to move in with Linzi across the street. Big Mal and Linzi (whose real name is “Shinsala”) spend much of their time watching Indian pornographic films.

Big Mal is unhappy. Not long ago, he lived in Los Angeles for a few years. Although he liked the city, he found he could not make it there on his own. He knows he is an uneducated, lower-class thug and that his associates are, if anything, even more illiterate and pitiful. He reflects on what it is to be a nightclub bouncer: A bouncer mainly keeps people out; if you have to bounce too many people, that means you have been a bad bouncer. By that test, he has been only moderately good at his trade. At the sports day, he is embarrassed by his own appearance.

Although Big Mal is not virtuous, he knows what virtue is. His parents represent some kind...

(The entire section is 574 words.)