Explorations rather than reviews!

You’ll need to have read the book to make any sense of these hommages

Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor

I picked up the book. Summer had arrived suddenly at the beginning of May after a hard wet spring. The first swallows made a tentative entry searching out old nesting places in the barn. A crocodile was seen in the river. Emma Smugg asked the Parish Council to contact someone but it was decided that more evidence would be needed. Elvis Protheroe developed gout. Too many visits to the Club some suggested. He was seen to walk with a slight limp. The small tortoiseshell pupae nestled in the damp earth of many compost heaps began to twitch and stretch in the heat moving to the surface. I yawned. There was a missing girl and rumours. There were hidden dead sheep up by the quarry advertising their presence by the sweet smells of decay which drifted down the valley. Richard called in to see Sally on the pretext of collecting for the church. He helped her find the online history on her browser and his hand brushed across her breast as he leaned over her. She sighed as he felt the nipple swelling but nothing was said. I was hoping for more. He left shortly after. In the village hall dead badgers had been collected for the clay badger stuffing. It was noted that there was a glut this year and some blamed the roadkill from the quarry trucks. Early in the month a plague of locusts invaded Walter Smith’s allotment and stripped it clear. A few days later Walter developed a crop of hideous boils. Some suggested it was the work of the Lord. Kylie Smugg was seen walking out with Tyrone Powell. Weddings were discussed as Spring turned to summertime and then Autumn arrived. The crocodile was talked about but never seen again. The years went by. I felt myself becoming greyer and grizzled. I think Sally and Richard may have done it. Nothing was said… Ever… Then it ended. I wondered why?

4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster

Jim woke up on Sunday morning with another hangover piecing together the events of the previous day, the hours spent translating some unknown French poetry, the drive to meet with Wendy who for some inexplicable reason lived a long way away continuing her education and although he was thinking of Samantha away in Europe, he still found Wendy irresistible like a mawkish puppy even though they both knew there was no future beyond the immediate bottles of wine. He needed a coffee, saw that as clear as anything but being slightly jaded he did not see the 47 bus as he set out to cross the road and there was an ear splitting crash and then nothing.

8.93 Jim was in Ealing Broadway outside a greengrocery shop watching Karen wave from a passing bus. He know then that their relationship could only prove exciting, then less so and ultimately so unfulfilling she would move in with an estate agent from Walthamstow so he might as well visit his 94 year old father who had three wives and might leave him a load of money which he could agonise about spending while dropping in the odd bit of potted history so much so that 800 pages later he was still whingeing on and then Jim-3 was discovered, only a dusty skeleton propped in his chair with the book open on page 763 and everything ended quite abruptly including this review. Should it have won the Booker? Never in any number of lives.

 

Seiobo There Below by László Krasznahorkai

He sat down to write a review, opened the PC, the same PC which had only recently conveyed the news of a football match result, the certainty of which was undeniable having been recorded as it were the previous night, the two teams having fought their way to a shoot out, expressed in penalty kicks rather than with weapons but nonetheless a shoot out to the death, although the deaths were overplayed, no-one ceased to breathe like the inestimable handless torso of the splendid Venus and the sprawling mouths of crazy horses as brought to life by the Jacksons but not the Venus of course which like the crazy horse had never known breath but then he had to take one, drawn in long with barely a comma and never a full stop for that would be the termination of all, the completion, the ending, the climax, the denouement of any review and in the unutterable ending the substance of the review would be lost unless the PC crashed and the review was then without intention and yet inevitably, posted. Phew, hooray! Don’t even start this book! If you do, you’ve been warned as it is hard to stop.

 

Satin Island by Tom McCarthy

The book arrived, maybe on a Friday. It might have been a Thursday. I couldn’t be sure with a digital transmission who or what pressed the button that clicked massive interstices of electronic switches in some heavy functional building located in somewhere empty and motionless like Nevada or neutrally grey like Finland to sustain the sense that Amazon delivered it in a presence that contained the past of its ordering and the future of its reading. The rituals of this delivery were lost. No one carried the text from a warehouse shelf to a despatch area where supernumeraries anonymised it in brown paper while lightly brushing their DNA across the glossy cover. The production took place in the software, a place uncompromising in its refusal to engage with either time and space where once some insubstantial keyboard tap created the means and the possibility of the event of its arrival and the ritualised exploration of the pixels which embraced its significance and the codes that stalked elusively under its surface.

I hadn’t slept well. The emerging symptoms of laryngitis, nasal passages unusually bright, a faint soreness merged in dreams that were websites which I was endeavouring to connect. They spawned out in front of me manifested in pipe work and wires, growing as I tried to link them. I awoke tired to coffee made bitter by my sandpaper throat and the shifting digital pages of the kindle landscape where an altered font stretched out the pages and given my reading speed threatened to disrupt even time itself.

As an ethnographic anthropologist I prepared myself. A long flight, a rackety drive and the last stages in a primitive dug out canoe might have cleared my landscape of misconceptions, created the blind observer perspective as Wankinofski once described it in challenging a denim clad Levi Strauss to public debate before the embarrassment and professional ruin as it materialised that he was approaching the lead singer of a soul quartet. I was well aware of the dangers so I took a long shower and thought briefly of the curve of Kylie Minogue’s buttocks as I flanneled. Then I began to read.

I found out about the project but then again I failed as the project proved constantly elusive slipping over the digital surface of the page so that just as it seemed to connect and appear the activity of page turning drew it away. But then there was the other project, the creation of this digital inability to define which represented the very act of textual exploration, the darkness at the heart of reading and then the impossibility of exploring life itself where the present is actually the past reaching consciousness but otherwise unknowable and the future is simply chimerical where that glimpse of Kylie can be premeditated in as intense detail as tomorrow’s trip to work.

Things connected. The dead parachutist, the oil slicks but the warp and the weft never touched so that the connections were tenuous, slippery and evasive like the touch of satin. Then, even those fragmentary links faded. The girlfriend, Madison, told a long and inconsequential story, the narrator went to Staten Island but never visited and I took another paracetamol and pondered the impossibility of ever telling anyone, anything about anything and whether you could have a Booker Prize for thinking about that. Probably not but you might enjoy the ride.

 

Outline by Rachel Cook

I was reading this on my flight to Goa when I noticed the middle aged women in the adjacent seat reading a treatise on Derrida and the existential impossibility of knowing anything with certainty. I offered my neighbour a brief smile and she responded by telling me how as a child she kept a pet that died. She wondered whether the pleasure of keeping the small animal, a hamster I recall, could ever outweigh the sense of loss when it was trapped in the vacuum cleaner by a careless domestic help. Ever since, she said, she had found it difficult to love since love was bound by despair. I said that such existential ennui must be hard to live with and she told me how she once delivered a writing workshop in Athens where the participants represented a range of writing paradigms and told her their tedious and fragmented life stories which she recounted in such self absorbed detail to herself that she found herself irresistibly drawn to disappear into her own colon. At this point I felt compelled to change seats so that was the end – unresolved, pointless and fragmentary. There are better airplane encounters in Biggles!

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