The Material

Camille Bordas


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Serpent's Tail
4 July 2024
ISBN: 9781805220060
352 pages

From the publisher

A literary star ascending makes her UK debut with a novel about the funniest people's saddest stories

'Utterly charming ... Bordas is an invaluable new voice' George Saunders

'A disquisition into the nature of comedy and creativity. Like the best comedians ... Bordas is alert to the deeper joke' Sunday Times

'Amusing... impressive' New York Times

'Marvellously engaging and entertaining ... full of terrific moments and cutting dialogue' Independent

Every comedian knows that there's a line between sharp and cruel, that sad becomes funny at the right angle, that any moment in life, however painful or triumphant, has the potential to become a punchline. At the Chicago Stand-up School, success is about the material.

But maybe Artie is too handsome to be taken seriously on stage, Olivia too scared to examine her past, and Phil too afraid to cause harm. Their teachers are obsessed with failure: Kruger trying to command his father's respect, Ashbee weary of the way his Blackness attracts a type of white admirer, Dorothy wondering how her talent is connected to her loneliness. Whether a visiting comedian-the famous, controversy-steeped Manny Reinhardt-will do more to help or to harm their cause remains to be seen.

Set over the course of a single day, and shifting exquisitely between several points of view, The Material examines life through the eyes of a band of outsiders bound together by the need to laugh, and the desire to make others laugh even harder.