I've only ever read one book by Howard Jacobson, called Redback, and I absolutely hated it. It seemed like a rambling example of literary clever-cleverness that had somehow escaped a decent editor. Not sure what his current stuff is like, but a little interview with him today in the Guardian piqued my interest. Jacobson worked for a while in Sydney and he was talking about his experiences there. It struck a chord with me as I had lived there for a similar length of time too. All of what he says rings true of me too:
"You fall in love differently when you are young and far from home in a seductive place. You fall in love with the very air you breathe, and the vivid colours and the unbearably sweet sensation of distance and unaccustomedness. If the person already embodies the spirit of the place that has seduced you – its beauty, its liveliness, its quickness, and somehow its faraway sadness, for Sydney always struck me as melancholy – and if your trysts are indistinguishable from this landscape, the city as much the site of passion as your heart, you fall heavily."
"So why, since I loved Sydney so much, did I leave less than three years after my rhapsodic arrival? The simple answer is that you can have too much of a good thing: there was too much fun and not enough work, Sydney had become a sort of Lotus Land to me, a seduction of the senses, and I was, after all, an Englishman with English ambitions to which the sunshine and the wine and the overall beauty of everything and everyone were at last inimical. It's a sad but necessary fact for some of us to face: that we fare better when the going isn't easy."
and on returning to visit it again:
"I can't trust me in the place. It's too like visiting myself as I was, as I might have been, as I had no business being."