Why don't you take a permanent job, Albert? You're twenty-eight now, you know," his mother remarks when he goes on his weekend duty visit home. Albert Angelo is by vocation an architect and only by economic necessity working as a substitute teacher. He had thought he was, if not dedicated, at least competent. But now, on temporary assignments in schools located in the tough neighborhoods of London, Albert feels ineffectual. He is failing as a teacher and failing to fulfill himself as an architect. And then, too, he is pained by the memory of a failed love affair. "I'm trying to say something not tell a story telling stories is telling lies and I want to tell the truth," Johnson insists in the penultimate section of the book when his authorial voice intervenes. Or, as Johan Thielman writes in The Review of Contemporary Fiction, "Johnson is trying to use fiction to reproduce life as closely as possible and, in his inevitable failure to succeed, he extends our notion of the possibilities of the novel...he made a body of work which remains fascinating, not in the least because he achieved one of his main ambitions: to be totally honest...His novels are the moving traces of a passionate devotion to and pursuit of his truth."
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