Tanvir Bush’s novel CULL, published by Unbound, satirises the current state of affairs by exploring the possibility of a state sponsored euthanasia scheme. The book had a launch on Friday 22nd February 2019 at Corsham Town Hall – Corsham being home to Bath Spa Universities Creative Writing Department where Tanvir is Associate Research Fellow. Review by Colin Hambrook
CULL is a real page-turner. With so many twists and turns in the plot – and so much humour interspersed with the ever-increasing horrific realities of the barriers to the basic means of living afforded to disabled people in the UK. Dramatic tension combined with an array of characters who would sit easily inside the pages of an Angela Carter classic, makes CULL a great read.
The novel’s protagonist Alex is a visually impaired journalist on a part time placement with a local newspaper, whose editor responds unfavourably when she brings to her editors’ attention a troubling link between the disappearance of several homeless people, the new government Care and Protect Bill and the sinister extension of the Grassybanks residential home for the disabled, elderly and vulnerable.
Aided and abetted by her trusty guide dog Chris, Alex goes on an adventure into the world of the Ladies Defective Agency – a crackpot team of disabled women joining together to surmount economic difficulties – and radical feminist fightback organisation Boudicca who take on the corrupt politicians and the malevolent institutions they engineer.
I have periodically followed the work of disabled activists and rights groups like dpac. The statistics on suicide rates and the numbers of people who have died after being declared fit for work has been horrific and it has often worried me why are we not hearing more stories in the media on what is happening?
CULL gives a cynical but perhaps all too-real response to the culpability of those in power who are engineering the current situation for disabled people. Without being overly polemical CULL creates a picture in which the reader can see the thin line that exists between what is happening in British society today and what was happening in Germany in the 1930s. Eugenics, after all was not invented by Germany, but was spearheaded in the United States in the 1920s and was part of a worldwide trend. CULL is a response to the current state of affairs where we are seeing a rise of nationalistic far right politics on a global scale.
The launch of the novel saw a team of volunteers hanging up the names from Callum’s List and the Black Triangle Campaign and ‘shop-a-scounger’ posters designed by Mr. Ogg. A wheelchair was splayed upside-down in the buildings entrance and was hemmed off by police tape. And Trish from Make Believe Arts directed the event, adding a bunch of flowers laid by the wheelchair’s side.
The evening kicked off with Miro Griffiths MBE, Esther Fox from Accentuate and D4D, a mini flash mob, followed by team of dramatic readers and professional actors bringing the novel to life through three dramatic readings.
Maggie Gee has written of CULL: ‘Where is the satirist we need now, with the welfare state in chaos and politics a TV reality show? She is the fabulous, funny, sharp, outrageous Tanvir Bush, and Britain must read her. With a dauntless but sympathetic heroine, one of the best dog characters in literature and a disabled escort service called the Ladies’ Defective Agency, this witty and all too believable novel is a 2017 inheritor of the satirical genius of Lindsay Anderson’s Britannia Hospital and Anthony Burgess’s Clockwork Orange.’
‘Laugh and weep! With wit, flair and imagination, Tanvir Bush unfolds the secret life of a nation on benefits. Our nation….’ Fay Weldon