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148 pages, Hardcover
First published April 23, 2015
"Everybody knows deep down that life is as much about the things that do not happen as the things that do and that's not something that ought to be glossed over or denied because without frustration there would hardly be any need to daydream. And daydreams return me to my original sense of things and luxuriate in these fervid primary visions until I am entirely my unalloyed self again. So even though it sometimes feels as if one could just about die from disappointment I must concede that in fact in a rather perverse way it is precisely those things I did not get that are keeping me alive."It turns out that this is also shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize, a prize I have paid attention to in the past because it is an award given to young, promising writers, and the nominees range from fiction to poetry to hybrid forms. One of the other shortlisted books (actually the winner of the prize) is one I just so happened to finish right before starting this one, although at the time I had no idea that either was nominated for that award - Grief Is the Thing with Feathers. Now I feel I might as well read the other three nominees.
“Sometimes a banana with coffee is nice. It ought not to be too ripe – in fact there should be a definite remainder of green along the stalk, and if there isn't, forget about it.”
“In circumstances when an impression is extended for the benefit of the person looming nearby, whatever is said is rarely anything at all evocative, and the moment it is said something intrinsic is circumvented and cannot be recaptured later on.”
“The warm sponge was very effective at making the stickiness dissolve however so I was left with just a dark stain which didn’t bother me actually, and as I looked at it it occurred to me that all bird shit is jam really, with a little bit of white mixed in.”
“However, the sensational mode by which the latest idea came to light was in fact not the least bit dazzling or unprompted but was rather the sort of consolidated outcome which is typically produced when a protracted and half-hearted analytical process aggravates the superior auspices of an exasperated subconscious.”
A bespoke man-size filter for example, or a succession of perfectly pitched blind spots, or a persistent and delightful ringing in the ears, or a languorous crescendo of beatific bemusement. I don’t know—whichever elusive device it is that surely one must have in spades so that critical indifference is converted, rather niftily, into mindless fascination, and one’s usual agitation has the opportunity to metamorphose into a gloriously inappropriate and stupefying crush.Or this one:
The weather has not been particularly congenial this summer and such is my resignation that lately I have taken to commenting upon its brooding contrariety in routine phrases which demonstrate exasperation and contempt while leaving the utter indifference I’ve actually begun to feel towards it undetected and intact.Whenever facing such passages, I wonder what propelled this undoubtedly talented writer into such an awkwardly constructed showcase of heavily loaded words and phrases, crudely violating more than one of Orwell's famous rules ("Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent", "Never use a long word where a short one will do" or "If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out"). The parts with this kind of jargon writing felt cumbersome, never really resonating with me and preventing me to entirely connect to this book as a whole and the narrator.
I’d listen to the woodpigeon’s wings whack through the middle branches of an ivy-clad beech tree and the starlings on the wires overhead, and the seagulls and swifts much higher still. And each sound was a rung that took me further upwards, and in this way it was possible for me to get up really high, to climb up past the clouds, towards a bird-like exuberance, where there is nothing at all but continuous light and acres of blue.Despite my reservations, the author surely intrigued me enough, especially with her original approach to the novel/story writing that eschews the conventional narrative, that I might decide to read her more recent Checkout 19 as well.