Monday, April 02, 2007

A book of beginnings

Against all inclination, I began to read a thriller. The book just happened to be there, offering itself. The packaging is classic: a compact paperback with the starkly-worded title raised in gold lettering against a foreboding image. I had no expectations at all and it began well. The main character was introduced in crisp prose with a wonderful pulse. I learned of his mundanely pleasant life, his mysterious girlfriend and the suggestion of a dark cloud waiting to float over and block out the sunlight. No trouble. I've read many infinitely worse “literary” novels. Yet it was here that I put the book down. Now that a world had opened up, I wanted more. I wanted the whole book to be like this; a book of beginnings, sunlight ahead, and I knew that was not going to happen. That dark cloud scuttled over soon enough. That's why, I think, to take a recent example, I love to re-read Peter Handke's Repetition (seventh time in progress) and have been enjoying his No-man's Bay marathon. These books are full of beginnings, full of fresh air and sunlight. By contrast, the thriller felt like a noose tightening around the neck. Death is also escapism I suppose.

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