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The Long Take
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9/19 The Long Take > Long Take - Background / General (no spoilers)

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message 1: by Hugh (last edited Sep 02, 2019 12:57AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2568 comments Mod
Apologies for the placeholders - I had to create the threads on my Android phone, which takes much longer than doing it on the laptop and makes it much more difficult to create links.

Welcome to the general thread for this month's Open Pick group read. Please do not post spoilers here. The Long Take occupies a grey area somewhere between an extended narrative poem and a novel, and since the Booker and Goldsmith's prizes chose it for their novel prizes, it seemed fair game for me to nominate it. Robin Robertson is better known as a poet, and has won many poetry prizes. I was also familiar with him through a collaboration with the Scottish folksinger Alasdair Roberts which produced a CD called Hirta Songs, about the history and evacuation of St Kilda. So when last year's Booker longlist was announced, this was one of the books that interested me most.

It tells the story of Walker, a traumatised Canadian veteran of the D-Day landings from rural Nova Scotia. In the first part of the book he is in New York, and in the remaining parts he moves to California, in both Los Angeles and San Francisco. The book is full of references to 50s film noir, and Robertson helpfully provided an appendix which lists the films he talks about, many of which take place in atmospheric locations that were demolished later in the 1950s. There are also many references to jazz music.

Most of the book is in free verse, interspersed with occasional linking passages in prose. Each of the four sections takes place in a different year, spanning 1946 to 1953, and is bookended by historic photographs of its locations.

A few reviews:

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2568 comments Mod
I know it's only the third of the month, but I had hoped to see some signs of life by now.

Kathleen | 254 comments Hellooooooo …. :-)

Thank you for the summary and reviews, Hugh. I've started this and am enjoying the way it flows, with the memories in italics and the notes or journal offset in bolder type. Interesting how it feels a bit like a prose poem, but not at all like a series of vignettes. It really does read like a novel.

message 4: by Sam (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sam | 158 comments I'm going to be around for part of this eventually. I have some real life issues that are getting in the way at present. This was an excellent choice and my favorite from the Booker longlist last year. I also find it a great read if you have an interest in Los Angeles fiction, Beat literature, the San Francisco Renaissance, or if you ever hitchhiked route one.

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2568 comments Mod
Thanks Sam (and Kathleen). I am aware that the combination of the holiday season and the Booker lists makes this time of year a difficult one for reading commitments!

James | 62 comments Thanks for starting this off, Hugh. I reserved a copy at my local library. When I turned up to collect it, I was told it was in the non-fiction library room, as it was poetry. Apparently all poetry is non-fiction. Anyway, it certainly reads well.

message 7: by David (last edited Sep 03, 2019 07:41PM) (new)

David | 242 comments Hugh wrote: "... from rural Nova Scotia ..."

As (perhaps) the only Nova Scotian in this discussion, I'm going to take the liberty of making an ultimately very unimportant, pedantic point. (I hope I didn't oversell this comment!) Nova Scotia is made up of two parts: mainland Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Island. In Nova Scotia when people say "rural Nova Scotia" they pretty much always mean the rural mainland. For Cape Breton, we just say "Cape Breton", as "rural Cape Breton" almost seems redundant. In fact, the three regions of the province really are "the city" (Halifax, the capital), "rural Nova Scotia" (the rest of the mainland), and Cape Breton. Cape Breton is somewhat culturally distinct from the rest of the province, so whether someone is a "Caper" or not is a meaningful distinction. Walker is a Cape Bretoner.

Will any of this affect how you read the book? Probably not.


message 8: by David (new)

David | 242 comments Hugh wrote: "I know it's only the third of the month, but I had hoped to see some signs of life by now."

I've had a busy week and also been wrapped up with a daily read-and-discussion of Uwe Johnson's Anniversaries. I might be here a bit more in the days ahead.

message 9: by Hugh (last edited Sep 06, 2019 03:44AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2568 comments Mod
David wrote: "Hugh wrote: "... from rural Nova Scotia ..."

As (perhaps) the only Nova Scotian in this discussion, I'm going to take the liberty of making an ultimately very unimportant, pedantic point. (I hope ..."

Sorry - I was probably showing my ignorance - my main reason for mentioning his rural background was the contrast with the cities where most of the book is set. I am not sure that just saying Cape Breton would have conveyed that to readers who are less familiar with the local geography.

Robin Robertson spoke about his motivations when I saw him at a Booker shortlist reading last year - he talked about his own experiences moving from rural Aberdeenshire to London as being an important part - obviously the films are another.

message 10: by David (new)

David | 242 comments No worries, Hugh. Like I mentioned, I was being mostly pedantic there. I'm not sure I ever knew why he chose Nova Scotia as home for his character rather than Scotland, Robertson's home. So far as I know Robertson has no prior connection to this part of the world.

It is interesting that he locates Walker as being from Inverness, in the Cape Breton Highlands while there is an Inverness in the Scottish Highlands as well. (And, for those who don't know, "Nova Scotia" is just Latin for "New Scotland".) Perhaps this just makes the geographical journey of Walker's life a bit more epic.

message 11: by Mark (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mark | 266 comments The writing is propulsive and vivid. I appreciate the author's use of font and typeface to frame the different elements, a great relief from other (well a certain other) modern authors that think hints like that are cheating (speaking of you, Ali Smith).

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2298 comments I loved this book when I read it during last year's Booker frenzy. It was one of my favorites. I wasn't sure what to expect, knowing it was written in verse. I thought it flowed wonderfully. I enjoyed journeying with Walker from city to city.

message 13: by Sam (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sam | 158 comments Still catching up after being away but I wanted to link some articles that referenced Los Angeles fiction; three are from the Guardian and one from L.A. Weekly. Two authors you might note are Nathanael West's The Day of the Locust and John Fante's Ask the Dust. Fante writes directly about Bunker Hill. Let me also mention Chester Himes' If He Hollers Let Him Go and Philip K Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?





message 14: by Mark (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mark | 266 comments FYI, YouTube has many of the movies mentioned in the story. Instant, no rental. I'll be watching The Big Combo tonight...

A work of fiction with footnotes: who'da thunk it!

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