Reading the Booker Short List

Joshua Ferris: To Rise Again at a Decent Hour (Kindle Edition)

Well I finished the book but that is about all I can say. It’s quite long, the dentist is clearly unhappy (like most dentists I expect) and these bizarre intrusions into his life appear grindingly slowly to change it so at the end he might be a better person, or maybe not. The Ulms sounded like something from Dr Who and I’ve no idea after reading the book whether they are real or fictional or in any way remotely important. Is it about self discovery, religion or dentistry? I don’t really know. Should you read it? Probably not. Should it win the Booker? Definitely not!

Marlon James: A Brief History of Seven Killings (Kindle Edition)

This is a really hard book to review without a load more research! Is it fact? How true? Who knows? So some thoughts…

The Jamaican patois/slang is a bit wearing and it is hard to tell the characters apart by what they say. The book is woman hating to a horrendous degree and maybe that is Jamaican gang culture but it isn’t nice. There are lots of murders, graphically described, bits of people blown off, everyone wets and poos themselves on the way so it is messy.

Bob Marley, the Singer, is peripheral to it all. So is the CIA, trying to run various shows. I liked that bit, sleazy whites working to undermine the politics of the time but then the political culture seems beyond redemption anyway.

The writer bigs himself up at the end and gets drawn into the narrative, warned off saying some things by the gangsters. Not sure that works.

Sum up? I don’t buy this picture of deprived and depraved humanity. I think gang members have some fun, nice to their wives and kids. Maybe this book is quite racist deep down and maybe offensive? I should read a Jamaican review.

Nathan Filer: The Shock of the Fall (Kindle Edition)

The main thing about this book is that it is so insightful. Nothing gets pushed onto the reader, this is just how mental illness is, and you get drawn in deeper and deeper as it goes on. I like the way this book unfolds, the way so many of the characters are a bit mad, the kindness in it and the slow burn. It’s very sad in places. I recommend it.

Tom McCarthy: Satin Island (Kindle Edition)

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 or 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 flannelled. 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 evasivelike 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.

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