Nathan Barley

A little while ago Mel posted a link to an “article,”: along with “some of her own musings”: (scroll down and look for February 16) expressing distaste for the emotionally arid cleverness of “McSweeney’s”: Both this post and “Christian’s”: (again, no permalink, look for February 18), mentioning it, also link to the fictional exploits of a character called Nathan Barley, as does “one of Glen’s”:

Nathan Barley’s misadventures are partly the work of British satirist “Chris Morris”:, and lampoon the exact kind of self-satisfied, callous slime that media-savvy, kitsch-aware Cultural Studies postgrad bloggers could easily be mistaken for (and sometimes correctly identified as). The point, to me, seems to be to point out the absolute hideousness of intelligent but useless people who are constantly obsessed with nothing but their own satisfaction, which often involves making sure everyone is convinced of their consummate cleverness and cutting-edge, self-reflexive fashionability. As such, it seems to have been quite naturally associated with the critique of _McSweeney’s_. I don’t read _McSweeney’s_ (though I’ve checked out the website, and my friend Dave started “a parody of it”:, so I can’t comment on it with authority, but the bunch of posts I’ve referenced seems to add up to a critique of a mindset which is, unfortunately, depressingly familiar to me from personal experience, and which I am hypochondrially inclined to worry I might at times exhibit.

The “whole Nathan Barley saga”: reminds me quite strongly of the work of the Nobel-prize-winning Japanese author Ôe Kenzaburô. Both are in the style of “grotesque realism,” a literary technique that highlights despicable behaviour and the variously disgusting (but also sometimes wonderful) functions and imperfections of the human body and the suffering they cause. But while Ôe’s protagonists are usually redeemed by their encounters with human suffering, for which they are often at least partially to blame, developing a sense of compassion and remorse, for Barley there is no redemption.

Even so, I can’t help be envious of the fictional, parentally-supported creep. After all, he seems to get everything he wants, and all he has to give up in exchange is his soul…

Author: Ben Hourigan

Ben Hourigan is a novelist from Melbourne, Australia. His books Kiss Me, Genius Boy and My Generation’s Lament are Amazon category bestsellers, and are available wherever good books are sold online. Ben also works as an editor, copywriter, and self-publishing consultant at his own firm, Hourigan & Co. For news and book release updates, sign up to his email newsletter.