Kirstie's Reviews > Darkmans

Darkmans by Nicola Barker
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Nov 20, 2011

it was amazing
Recommended for: People interested in postmodern experimental fiction
Read in October, 2011 — I own a copy

It's about as challenging to describe Nicola Barker's writing style as it is to read it but picture Thomas Pynchon's twisty and chaotic words with an unreliable narrator in terms of depicting the true reality of every moment crossed with a bit of Flannery O'Connor and you'll have something close. Her vocabulary in and of itself is like a dense road to travel on but it's filled with some glorious wit and cultural references too, for those of us who enjoy sightseeing.

I don't use this term lightly but Ms. Nicola Barker is brilliant and that's something you pick up from the first thrusts of this ambition novel. This is a work of postmodern fiction that brings this genre to a pinnacle and simultaneously to it's knees. It's unfaltering and awe inspiring and perhaps the most inventive novel I've read all year. This one will leave you gasping to keep up and gaping at each new chapter. And truly, I haven't seen characters this vivid since Trainspotting..this is very different in terms of subject matter but the sense of these people really and truly alive is unmistakable.

This novel is a little bit about the relationship of a father and son as well as between a wife and a husband and their son who seems to definitely be on the Autism spectrum but seems centered mainly on delusions and how they affect everyone and everything. Of course, the reader must suffer to decipher through these delusions too and figure out what really is happening. Barker doesn't always spell things out. That would be way too easy on her readers and she clearly expects much more from us.

This is set in postmodern England but it draws from many different time periods in terms of the breadth of it's references. Decipher Barker's true meaning in all it's ways and you might hold the key to the entire universe. Either way, take a glorious stab at it. Even if you don't succeed, you'll be stronger for your journey.


Some quotes:

pg. 174 "He already had a well-documented genius for circumnavigation."

pg. 356 "'A man needs a maid."Kane automatically quoted Neil Young.
'Just someone to keep his house clean, fix his meals and go away." she quoted back
'Marry me!' Kane exclaimed.


pg. 773 "'Is it because of my line of work? Kane demanded, paranoid. 'Is it because I'm a dealer?'...'Does that just make you automatically assume,'Kane continued, furious, 'that I'm the kind of person who thinks pretty much anything can be bought and sold?'"

pg. 824 "The *truth*," Peta informed him, baldly, 'is just a series of disparate ideas which briefly congeal and then slowly fall apart again...The truth is that there is no truth. Life is just a series of coincidences, accidents and random urges which we carefully forge for our own, sick reasons-into a convenient design. Everything is arbitrary. Only art exists to make the arbitrary congeal. Not memory or God or love, even. Only art. The truth is simply an idea, a structure which we employ-in very small doses-to render life bearable. It's just a convenient mechanism."

pg. 825 "You were telling yourself a story. You were weaving a spell. You were making all the parts fit. You were feeding into a general energy, a universal energy. You were probably adhering to a basic archetype a 'first model' as the Ancient Greeks would have it-something like he's threatened by his father, he loved his mother, he's terrified of death...or maybe something more intellectual, more esoteric like...I don't know..like the idea of this disparity between fire and water. She pulled a moronic face, 'Or the absurd idea that language has these *gaps* in it and that lives can somehow just tumble through."





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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Adam (new) - added it

Adam This sounds super interesting. Would I be able to borrow this from you? Or should I just read the unread copy of Pynchon's "V" that I've had for over a year? Which would be easier to get through, you think? Also I need to borrow all of your Murakami. I want to read so much more.


message 2: by Kirstie (last edited Nov 21, 2011 06:51PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kirstie Adam wrote: "This sounds super interesting. Would I be able to borrow this from you? Or should I just read the unread copy of Pynchon's "V" that I've had for over a year? Which would be easier to get through, y..." yes, sure. It is very interesting! Do you have any Murakami novels at all?


message 3: by Adam (new) - added it

Adam Kirstie wrote: "Adam wrote: "This sounds super interesting. Would I be able to borrow this from you? Or should I just read the unread copy of Pynchon's "V" that I've had for over a year? Which would be easier to g..."

I don't, but I did borrow "Wild Sheep Chase" last year and read it rather quickly. I liked it a lot.


Kirstie Oh there's a sequel to that called Dance Dance Dance. I read them out of order though :/


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