Nate D's Reviews > Berg

Berg by Ann Quin
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Aug 23, 11

bookshelves: dalkey, britain, 60s-re-de-construction, read-in-2011
Recommended to Nate D by: siamese cats
Recommended for: budgies
Read from August 19 to 23, 2011

Reading Ann Quin's mad, brilliant final novel Tripticks, I was often struck by her uniquely garbled diction, a thick, high-modern mess of interior thoughts and memories with exterior details and actions, past and present and the entirely imagined mingling on every page. But in Tripticks, mingling also with a huge array of intruding outside material, brochures and pulp synopses and magazine tests, which I thought might account for the garbledness. But no, even here, in her first novel, whose entire text is apparently its own, nearly every paragraph lurches, flailing, through mind and landscape and personal history. It's disorienting, it certainly keeps you on your toes, but it's acutely perceptive and often wildly entertaining once you get the feel for it.

All the same, and despite the premise encapsulated in the famous first line ("A man called Berg, who changed his name to Greb, came to a seaside town intending to kill his father."), this didn't really feel as fine-honed as the later work. Though the dreary-mysterious off-season Brighton of the book -- the same in which Quin was to disappear into the ocean a decade later -- has its intrigues and muted fascinations, the single-mindedness of the protagonist narrows its interest somewhat. Berg is a Freudian archetype granted comedic-noir context, a maybe-murderer trapped in oedipal confusion between mother, father, and women in general. The strictness of the archetypes that he finds himself in squeeze some of the surprise out of the story's course, though it is not without its unexpected curves and absurdities. I think, actually, that the greater issue is just that in sticking to a fairly familiar psychological case study, Quin limits her satiric range somewhat, and narrows the wit that would dash across the entire American landscape in Tripticks.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Megha "....once you get the feel for it."

I am hoping I get to that point soon. I just started this and it has been a bit of an uneven ride this far.

Nate D Uneven is definitely the word. It'll either start to charm you or it won't. I'm actually going to embark upon one of her other novels shortly, so it must have worked on me.

Megha Sounds like Tripticks in a notch above this one? I ended up enjoying Berg after all.

Nate D It's in some ways even messier, but to my sensibilities far more urgent and mysterious and significant. I definitely need to read Quin's other two novels now, as well.

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