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Acts of revision
1st ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Doubleday, 1996.
Physical Description:
242 pages ; 24 cm
As he goes through his dead mother's papers Englishman Gregory Lynn, 35, discovers his unflattering school reports, which revive memories of humiliation at the hands of teachers. One called him a donkey, another said he had a girl's name. Lynn decides to even the score with cold-blooded acts of revision. A first novel.


Call Number
Bedford, M.

On Order

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

After success, nothing succeeds like a riveting psychopathic narrator. England's Gregory Lynn, the voice of this distinguished and disturbing debut, is, as he enjoys putting it, a 35-year-old "orphan, a bachelor, an only child from the age of four and a half." He's 6'2" and 263 pounds, has one green eye and one brown one. The novel opens elliptically, with Gregory incarcerated for one or more "incidents," the nature of which becomes clearer as he discusses his defense with his lawyers. The story he tells is harrowing: upon the suicide of his mother, the last remaining member of his nuclear family, Gregory finds a box of evaluations from his school days. On the whole, the teachers were severe, and Gregory feels their harsh judgments doomed him to failure at the outset of his life. He tracks each of them down in the hope of performing what he calls "acts of revision" on or with them. Each chapter focuses on one teacher and the subject he or she taught, interweaving elements of Gregory's past with the course of his current vengeance. Some teachers, such as the kindly art instructor, Mr. Andrews, escape with minor samples of Gregory's wrath, but not all are so lucky. Bedford tries to do too much with Gergory: he is a visual character, an aesthete who expresses himself most freely through cartoons, and yet Bedford gives him a sharply verbal mind. Still, the novel is remarkable for a malice that is at once banal and terrifying (and often quite funny). It all adds up to what the punning Gregory would call a s(l)ick little thriller. 30,000 first printing; BOMC selection; German, Italian, French, Dutch and Swedish rights sold; author tour. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Kirkus Review

From the Yorkshire-based Bedford, a suspenseful saga of a sociopath's return to his painful past, seeking vengeance for slights real and imagined from his former teachers. Bachelor Gregory Lynn, 35, has lived with his mother, in strangeness and seclusion, for most of his adult life. But her death, and his subsequent discovery of old school reports, releases disturbing memories, sending Gregory out on a systematic hunt for his ``oppressors''--the details of which are given here in retrospect as Gregory is interviewed by a legal team preparing to defend him against a number of charges, including murder. After subjecting an ex-history teacher to an anonymous blitz of hate- mail, Gregory visits Wales and his former geography instructor, a provocative dresser who once caught him masturbating in class. He stalks her for days, assaults her, but then lets her go without raping her. A series of letters between Gregory and his sympathetic English teacher follows--an exchange that starts well but ends with Gregory threatening her, too. Contact with his math instructor is thwarted when he discovers that the man is dead, but a visit with his bullying gym teacher proves more satisfying: Gregory finds him at home in Oxford and tortures him before being forced to flee. Now hunted himself, Gregory takes refuge with his freethinking art instructor but leaves when his uncontrollable appetite for revenge sours the understanding they once had. Gregory's final act of vengeance, though, is reserved for the hated Mr. Boyle, still teaching science at the school where an assault on him 20-odd years before led to Gregory's expulsion. Taking Boyle hostage in his classroom, Gregory extracts a night of torment from his victim before bringing matters to a violent, unpredictable end. Thoroughly unsettling, this tale forcefully presents the workings of a deranged mind in all its complexity while retaining the page-turning pleasures of a genuine thriller. A riveting debut. (Book-of-the-Month Club selection; author tour)

Booklist Review

Mild-mannered Gregory Lynn's Mum has just died, and in going over the homestead, Gregory comes across his report cards from 20 years before. His grades were terrible, but it's the comments--condescending, dismissive, hostile--that really upset him. So he undertakes a revision, as he describes it, and seeks out his old teachers to wreak vengeance. Wisely, Bedford, a new British novelist, breaks up his intense first-person narrative by interjecting other texts, such as letters and dictionary excerpts, miraculously giving the book a comic edge in the process. Billed by the publisher as a psychological thriller, this is, rather, a terrifically intelligent and compelling novel, accomplished in design and skillful in execution. The suspense is negligible, the cheap thrills few, and the violence minimal: a bungled rape, a smashed-up kneecap, one murder. Indeed, Gregory would be more at home in Graham Greene's Brighton Rock than Silence of the Lambs. And while it is an excellent psychological portrait, Acts of Revision, like the Greene novel, is even more a tremendous indictment of its age. An impressive debut. --Brian Kinney

Library Journal Review

Bedford has crafted a chilling, superbly written first novel about a 35-year-old man who embarks on a campaign of terror against his former grade school teachers. Gregory Lynn, a rebellious, mentally ill man who is nonetheless perceptive and remarkably intelligent, comes across his old end-of-term school reports while poring through his recently deceased mother's effects. Prompted by these reawakened memories of the teachers' indiscretions against him‘from the ridicule of an insensitive history lecturer to the brutality of a sadistic phys ed instructor‘Gregory carefully plots his "acts of revision." Although the story initially moves along a bit sluggishly, Bedford slowly cranks the psychological tension so that after the midway point the novel proceeds at a breakneck pace. Gregory is a fascinating study who seems to have been lifted alive and breathing from rock group Pink Floyd's anthem, "Another Brick in the Wall." Most popular collections will want this. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/1/96.]‘Mark Annichiarico, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.