Saturday, May 28, 2005

Confessions of an obscure and experimental reader

Since Brighton’s new library opened, I’ve been picking up novels on a whim. I hoped I’d discover a new writer or be surprised by an old one. And I have. The surprise came with Paul Auster’s Oracle Night and the discovery with Nick Tosches’ In the Hand of Dante.

But what prompts the whim? With Auster it was a review saying this was perhaps his best novel (which I'm prepared to accept). With Tosches it was the impression from the blurb that it was about more than a gangster caper following the discovery of a handwritten manuscript of the Commedia. It is. Much more. Since then I’ve tried a few more:

David Foster Wallace – Oblivion
Haruki Murakami – Kafka on the Shore
Andrew Sean Greer – The Confessions of Max Tivoli
Elliot PerlmanSeven Types of Ambiguity
John McGahern – That They May Face the Rising Sun
Enrique Vila-Matas – Bartleby & Co

Yet only the last of these was finished. I found the others unremarkable and uncompelling, putting each aside soon after setting out: in the first case, the form and content was tiresome, in the third, downright embarrassing.

And today, when I saw a pristine copy of Case Histories by Kate Atkinson, I thought: OK, give it a chance. So I settled down to read the first chapter.

What can I say? Rather than repeating what I’ve written so many times before about form and narrative voice, I’ll just say that, from what I read (admittedly very little, but I don't recall reading a favourite novel that wasn't favourite right from the start) Case Histories is a prime example of what I intend to call freeform journalism. If you think this is literature (let alone "a great book"), you’re welcome to it.


Please email me at steve dot mitchelmore at gmail dot com.

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