Thursday, 30 May 2013

REVIEW: The Drowning of Arthur Braxton

The Drowning of Arthur Braxton

The north west of England is being battered by storms of biblical  proportions and at their epicentre, on a stretch of rain lashed seafront stands  an abandonned and semi derelict public baths, scheduled for demolition.

There are some who believe that the old building holds within it the power to heal, while there are others who say that only death is to be found behind its crumbling facade and boarded windows. Whatever dark secrets it holds it is far from deserted.

Welcome to the Oracle, a place peopled by characters who seem lost and cut off from the world outside; poor damaged Laurel, the stern and secretive Silver, the ghostly old twins Kester and Pollux and the graceful, innocent Delphina with whom Arthur falls hopelessly in love.

The Oracle is dark, dreamlike and filled with wonder but to Arthur, who first came here to escape the rain it becomes a place to shelter from the loneliness and despair of his life outside.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

This is billed as the opening of a three part novella and having finished reading it last night, in one sitting, I’m almost disappointed to know I’m already a third of the way through.

Rene cares for her sick mother in their delapidated homestead somewhere in the deep south of 1950’s America. Despite her mother’s tough-as-hoof-tacks southern grit and Rene’s rock steady calmness it is clear that Lilah is dying. A chance encounter offers the possibility of a cure from an unexpected source but both Lilah and Rene have grave misgivings.

There is darkness here but it is definately not of the clumsy unremmitting variety. Instead it is its pierced with flashes of hope and kindness. There is also intimate and unpleasant graphic detail associated with Lilah’s illness but again, it is not the centre piece of this excerpt and serves instead to add a sense of urgency neatly counterbalencing the deadpan Southern dialogue.

Eric Shonkwiler’s style is redolent of Faulkener’s As I lay Dying, not just in its setting and premis but most strikingly in its use of isolated imagery and plausibly dispassionate narration.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Review: A Fucked Up Life in Books

This book has the word ‘fuck’ in the title and its author has the word ‘cunt’ in her pen name. Still with me?

Its a series of snapshots of her life from early childhood to the present day and its settings include her family home, student accommodation, cafes, bars, offices, busses and  tube trains.
It has a supporting cast of family, boyfriends and work colleagues and its written in an engaging and at times conspiratorial tone that draws us in as if we were sitting across the table from her in a cafe or sharing the commute to work.

Where it differs from the legions of other comentators on everyday life is in the fact that situations of wince making awkwardness are conveyed matter of factly alongside white hot fury at everyday acts of betrayal and dishonesty. Here you will find the deepest loathing and the darkest thoughts but also heart warming kindness and unblinking loyalty. Then there is the author's highly developed sense of right and wrong combined with her complex moral flexibility.

Meet Bookcunt, an anti Bridget Jones for the social media generation.  Here are adventures in everyday life, refreshingly devoid of  a need to be loved and admired. There is no false modesty, no unspoken plea for sympathy.

Boyfiends come and go but constant features include the disasterous relationship with her mother, her close bond with her brother and a lifelong love of books, something she wants to share both with her readers and with those around her.
For me, where the book works best, is in the matter of fact, and at times dispassionate, retelling of explosive and life changing situations. This places all the emphasis on the dialogue's grim content, in very much the same way Banks's The Wasp Factory did.

While for many of us, speaking our minds when the situation requires it is an aspiration, for Bookcunt it seems like a lifetime vocation. I
t would be great to think that this is just 'Vol. 1'.