Two Brasenose alumni
have just brought out their debut novels in the same month: Grace McLeen's The Land of Decoration has just been
published by Chatto and Windus and Ben Masters's Noughties is out with Hamish Hamilton. Both authors studied
English at Brasenose, and it's really wonderful to see their extraordinary
academic talents translating into acclaimed works of fiction.
Ben Masters's Noughties
is a rambunctious, stylish, exuberantly comic novel which opens in the King's
Arms as Eliot Lamb and his friends celebrate the last night of their three
years as Oxford students. Readers can judge for themselves how accurately Ben
has drawn on his time at Brasenose to create the erudite tutorials and alcohol-fuelled
nights of his hero's time at Holywell College.
The self-admiring tutors could, of course, only be the product of an
untrammelled and fanciful imagination.
Ben went on to complete a Masters in English at Brasenose,
and is currently writing a Ph.D. on style and contemporary fiction at Cambridge
University. With panache and humour, Ben draws on a whole host of influences.
To quote the Financial Times:
‘Ben Masters' lively debut novel Noughties is thick with allusions to popular culture and song. Amid
the paragraphs of pastiche Martin Amis and Oscar Wilde are lyrics by Joe
Strummer and Jarvis Cocker. Noughties
is, among other things, a bittersweet hymn to the "ignorant bliss" and
"entitlement" of student days. Masters finds lugubrious, philosophic humour in
his own university past and in human ambition generally.... Masters' influences
are diverse, borrowing from Joyce as well as the scurrilities of Restoration
poet John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, (on whom Eliot writes an essay) to
contrive a lewd, exaggerated prose. ... Noughties
is a caustic, street-smart novel for our times.'
Grace McLeen's magical and haunting first novel, The Land of Decoration centres on
Judith, brought up in a fundamentalist Christian sect, who comes to believe she
has the power to control events through her miniature model ‘land of
decoration'. It's an acute, remarkable, heart-stopping and often comically
acerbic novel, which is, as the Daily
Mail put it, ‘a small miracle in itself'.
To quote the Independent, ‘Grace
McLeen's writing is deep, fantastical and powerful ... She has been able to
observe a fascinating, self-contained world with generosity, wonder and spirit.
This is a wonderful gem of a debut novel.'