Michael Arditti was born in Cheshire and educated at Jesus College, Cambridge. He began his literary career writing plays, of which several were produced on the stage and the radio. He has written theatre criticism for The Times, The Sunday Times, Daily Mail and Sunday Express, and was, for many years, a regular reviewer for the Evening Standard. He currently reviews books for several papers and is a regular broadcaster on the BBC. His novel Easter, published in 2000, won the first Waterstone's Mardi Gras Award and was shortlisted for the Creative Freedom Award. Unity (2005) was shortlisted for the 2006 Wingate / Jewish Quarterly Literary Prize.
This overambitious couch confessional seeks out parallels between the spiritual and sexual odyssey of its unnamed gay narrator (born into a repressive Jewish household, he flees into the uneasy embrace of the Catholic church) and two historical catastrophes: Jack the Ripper's 1888 serial-murders and the 1665 outbreak of bubonic plague. After suffering a nervous breakdown at the altar, the narrator has been forced to drop his duties as a priest, enter psychoanalysis and take a job as a walking-tour guide. By turns defensive, glib and self-loathing, he wavers between the story of his troubled life and the historical anecdotes that he takes so much to heart. Unfortunately, Arditti's (Pagan's Father) serious themes are at odds with a superficial style inappropriately crammed with showy wordplay and stagey asides. Worse, the historical set pieces never justify their place in the narrator's tale. In the book's first half, they strain to connect the narrator's naïve sexual experiences (with East End rent-boys and pimps) to Jack the Ripper's mutilations ("male sexuality at its most appalling extreme"). In the second half, the history lectures work better, as a village's endurance of the plague stands for the narrator's personal suffering during the AIDS epidemic. Still, if the narrator is, as one hustler puts it, "a spiritual voyeur... a praying Tom," he doesn't entice the reader into watching along. (June)
An exceptional book - at its core it combines the sexual with the spiritual' Sunday Times
This novel is the tale of a novice priest who suffers a nervous breakdown during mass. Ensuing psychoanalysis reveals his hatred of the church, his latent homosexuality, his realized homosexuality, and his torrid affair with a male prostitute named Jack who baptizes him in the faith, so to speak, with a shower of urine. And this is just part of what the novel offers. In what the author no doubt believes is clever counterpoint, the psychoanalytical monologs are interspersed with a second stream of monologs from the troubled priest's day job as a tour guide of Jack the Ripper's murder sites. At this point, Dave Barry would feel compelled to say, "I'm not making this up." Unfortunately, Arditti (Pagan's Father, LJ 8/96) is, and he has produced an astonishingly bad story. In fact, this novel's very existence strains credulity. Not recommended.‘Paul Hutchison, Bellefonte, Pa.