Glass Soup by Jonathan Carroll

God was a polar bear named Bob?
On the face of things, it might be easy to write-off Jonathan Carroll as a facile fantasist, someone who uses vaguely oblique references and metaphors for the whole meaning of life and love, and is overly obsessed with battles of good and evil and the grey areas in between. God knows, when I first read The Land Of Laughs I was confused as to why it merited a place in the Fantasy Masterworks series of books, and was left feeling distinctly bamboozled and empty afterwards. But there is a positive insidiousness about the writing, a depth betrayed by its apparent shallowness, and despite being annoyed at myself for seemingly confusing obviousness and profundity in the book, I went out and bought a load of other books by the same author, and have been steadily working my way through them for the best part of fifteen years. I still have a couple more to go. 

What does that tell you about Carroll? That he has a gift for reminding us of the ubiquitousness of the human experience? That he tells us we should trust ourselves, work hard at love, enjoy the wonder of life and not over-think things? That he sees there is poetry in a slice of chocolate cake, a shop window, a name carved on a tree? All of the above. In addition, he writes simply of complex things, creates impossible worlds in which you just have to believe, and uses vaguely oblique references and metaphors to make the most profound and startling suggestions about the world and our perceptions of it, our relationship with it and each other, and our often blinkered and ignorant solipsism. 

Each character in Glass Soup, lovers Vincent and Isabelle, friends Flora and Leni, conjured memories Broximon, Bob the polar bear, even the octopus driving the bus, serves a deeper purpose, pushes the story to its climax and revelations, and does so with surprisingly biting humour and an astonishingly casual panache. This novel is ridiculous, daft, bonkers, and wonderful, and if I don't appear to have said much about it, that is because I am still working out what to feel; something that is guaranteed to keep a novel in my thoughts and heart for a long, long time to come.

Comments

  1. Someone just sent this to me and it made me smile. Thanks for the good words. Really.

    Jonathan Carroll

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! Please just keep on doing what you're doing. That's all I can ask.

      Delete

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