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Something of a latter-day Jonah, Eloise describes her life as “half-alive hermitude”: she avoids windows, minds cats, plays the cello (badly), writes letters of complaint to the makers of “defective loo roll holders,” and allots “recovery time” to each social encounter. George is an American writer, painfully dependent on rich, dull patrons, who wonders whether he’ll ever finish his epic poem about ice hockey. He’s contemptuous of what he regards as England’s abnegation of sexuality—”a land of safe but wasted women.” Then there’s Ed, burglar, pervert, and bee tormentor, who grows giant vegetables in his backyard and sends letter bombs to women in the news.
The book itself is a collage of lists, its scope ranging from inventories of house contents to the elements that constitute seawater—the kind of manly data that distracts us continually from our true dilemma: how to love in a loveless world.