Thursday, 15 December 2016


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COLORLESS TSUKURU TAZAKI [By Haruki Murakami]. What a super book, absolutely loved it. Mixed reviews on Amazon but I thought it was five-star stuff. Loved the ambiguous ending: no mention that the man with Sara was her father; no clue to what really happened with Shiro; no explanation for the death-token or any explanation of why Haida left. Fabulous. It’s a bit contrived but if this is a problem for you you shouldn’t be reading contemporary Japanese fiction: it goes with the territory.
I don’t want to say a thing about the story. It’s perfectly summarised in the title Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. It’s a journey story and to comment further would inevitably require spoilers and probably I have said enough already.
I really identified with him, by the way. I think a lot of blokes will. 

A BEAUTIFUL YOUNG WIFE [By Tommy Wieringa]. Hmmm . . . my favourite subject: older man married to much younger and very beautiful, woman [Sarkozy age 61 and Carla age 48: Donald age 70 and Melania age 46]. The tragic imbalance. This the entire oeuvre of my middle novel Train That Carried the Girl except in his dissection Wieringa takes the POV of the husband whereas I obviously took Kiri’s POV. So rare to explore this dramatically in fact it may be a reflection on my reading over the last fifty years or so but this is the only other novel I have read in which these themes are explored. Not even covered by Shakespeare as far as I am aware . . . although I am no expert. Having said which I haven’t yet read Eimear McBride’s Lesser Bohemians: do they actually marry?
I liked it.
‘Again that vague smile, like a hunger striker’s. As though she had taken leave of the things of the world’.
Brilliant line.

It has average 3*reviews on Amazon but it is a lot better than that. Maybe a little too much tell and not enough show: the early rather clunky scene in which the father compares ages with him was something I took great pains to avoid in my narrative but there are some excellent set-pieces offering perspectives that don't normally get exposed, so much so that I find it hard to believe that this is made-up fiction. Mr Wieringa has been observing at close quarters [as indeed I did].
He likes the use of anadiplosis [where you end one sentence/paragraph with a word ,say love and then begin the next line with the same word]. If I were to make any kind of criticism it would be that the girl in particular has insufficient back-story; where are her girlfriends? A woman of that young age would be on her phone, texting, tweeting, e mailing, meeting for coffee or just to go round the shops but she inhabits a void. Similarly with the guy, Edward: where are his mates. A man of forty-two would have interests; photography or football that he would share with friends. But he is portrayed as a work-bore. And yet it's amazing how the pungency of his character comes through even when he denies us any hint of a substantial social life. 

But A Beautiful Young Wife echoes our times and is thoughtful, enjoyable and substantial enough to make me recognise the nature and scale of Tommy Wieringa’s talent. 

HEX [By Thomas Olde Heuvelt]. This is a gothic horror novel; very successful and much praised. The cover has a quote from the master himself, Stephen King [totally brilliant original] and indeed the structure and the narrative definitely owe a lot to him. He could have written it, actually. Its number 8793 in Amazon books this morning but No. 19 in Horror. Definitely not my usual thing.
Way too long. Slow-burning. I like slow-burning, I write slow-burning myself but this is glacial. It’s about a witch who has damned the up-state New York community of Black Springs for 300 years and how the modern day inhabitants have adapted to survive and live reasonable but restricted lives. Then some teenagers decide to kick back and test the premise that the witch should be accommodated at all times, to devastating effect.
For all that, I was never scared at any point. He has decided to pay more attention to his clever concept, ‘what would happen: what would the problems be?’ than trying to frighten us. It’s his prerogative of course but the reviews are very mixed with almost everyone commenting that they had high expectations that were not met.
Me, I was just glad when the end came.

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