Skip to main content

The Lost Time Accidents by John Wray

If you are, in fact, living the life that
your maker intended - it may be time
to seek another maker.
Yah, so, of course I’ve left too long between reading and reviewing once again, leaving myself little scope to write anything profound or shocking, or even remotely truthful, without recourse to the book itself, now gathering dust and a creeping blue mould on the shelf above the permanently cold storage heater in my bedroom (a good six or so miles from where I sit taking the opportunity to distract myself from a post-prandial slump and slack supervision).

But when has that ever stopped me?

Big and brash, ranging from art to science with major meandering asides into ontology, epistemology, and the character of space and time, Wray’s disjointed family chronicle is fun to read for the most part, if ultimately dissatisfying. Waldemar Toula has become estranged from the linear narrative of time somehow, trapped in a version of his dead aunts’ labyrinthine New York apartment-cum-mausoleum of lost things and visited occasionally by his uncle (or great-uncle? I can’t remember) and namesake, Waldemar, a notable Nazi war criminal and, so Waldemar Junior believes, the key to unlocking the family curse, namely the Lost Time Accidents, a formula devised by a great-great-grandparent which explains the nature of time and which has fascinated his family to the point of disaster through a number of generations. Waldemar the Elder disappeared mysteriously just before the concentration camp in which he was performing time-related experiments on its prisoners was liberated by the advancing Allies and, so it would seem, is ageing rapidly as he bounces through time, appearing older on each arrival in the little bubble of stasis in which Junior writes his family history, a long-form letter to the waspish, flighty and inscrutable Mrs Haven. Mrs Haven is Mrs to Mr Haven, multi-millionaire and head of a bizarre religious group which holds the Toula family in an oddly high regard and which eventually recruits Junior’s own father as their literary figurehead, because of his obsessions with writing short science fiction novels.

Still with me? So far so good.


What it doesn’t do though is hold my attention for any great length of time. I found my mind wandering and at no great cost. There were passages over which my eyes skipped and I am none the wiser as to whether it meant I missed something, as it didn’t quite make enough sense for me to have an objective overview. That said, it’s very impressive, a dauntingly tangled work of scholarly invention and the moulding of history to the convoluted shapes of literary endeavour. I’m almost sure it was even funny in places. I trust my memory enough to give it a positive gloss even if it didn’t push my buttons, so do check it out if you have the time and patience.

Comments

How's about that then?

Selected Holiday Reading - The In-Betweeners Abroad

I always try to travel light, a goal, something with which those among you with bookish leanings will empathise, that is challenging for someone intending to do as much reading as they can whilst ignoring as much culture and scenery as is possible. So huzzah and indeed hurrah for the generic e-book reader and its market competitors. Ten years ago I would likely have suffered a paroxysm of disgust for any apologist of the hated technology. Now, it seems, I must take one everywhere I go for more than one night.



The trip to which I am coming, an August sojourn by ferry to Santander and then by VW through Calabria, the Basque country, and north through Aquitaine, Poitou-Charente, Pays de la Loire and Bretagne, was a chance to get some serious reading under the belt. Twelve days of driving, drinking, books and beaches. The only 'real' books that made the trip were The Vagabond's Breakfast, of which more anon, and All The Days And Nights which, as I was on a deadline, I quickly …

Hannah Green And Her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence by Michael Marshall Smith

I was sold this book by Simon at the Big Green Bookshop in return for the money it cost plus a small donation towards operating costs and postage. 

In truth, I'd forgotten it was on its way, and it was a fucking lovely surprise when it arrived at my desk in work, my letterbox at the time being a tad short on width and breadth and unlikely to admit a hardback plus packaging. I recall very much enjoying reading Michael Marshall Smith, and I also enjoyed re-reading him, recently, and I documented this here, here and here. This was a book for which I hadn't realised I'd been waiting for a long time. 

However, had I not the history and warm, cosy feelings safely tucked up in the nostalgia bank, I would probably not have picked this up, going solely on the cover. There's a clock, the silhouette of a small girl, and leaves, along with a colour contrast and meandering font which brought to mind something cringe-worthily reminiscent of Alexander McCall-Smith*, or the covers of Sc…

Under The Dust by Jordi Coca

So, wheel of fortune, count to 29, pin the tail, freebies off of peeps on Twitter etc. etc. Whatever the methods sometimes employed to pick the next book in my intertextual experience, the one that brought me to Jordi Coca brought me to a whopping great slice of nostalgia. Before I'd even opened it, it brought to mind Richard Gwyn, himself a published poet, author, biographer, translator and course director of the MA Creative Writing course at Cardiff University, who I recall for some odd reason gently encouraging me to read this novel, and by whose own work I was quietly impressed at the time. He was also an advocate of Roberto Bolaño, another writer in whose work I can immerse myself but from which I emerge drained, as mentioned previously. Before that, though, there is this sticker on the front, declaring 'Signed by the Author at Waterstone's'. It is indeed signed by Jordi Coca, not adding any particular intrinsic value to the book, not for me anyway, but more impor…

The One from the Other by Philip Kerr

Philip Kerr is an author I have been reluctant to attempt to review for some time. His Berlin Noir trilogy cost me some hours of sleeplessness and in the end I decided to skip a review and just be happy to have read it and therefore move it from the pile of unread novels, via the edge of my desk where the “to review” pile occasionally falls over on to the typewriter and spills my pen pot across the floor and thus causes significant risks when stumbling blindly about the room at night too drunk to remember where my bed is or having just been jolted awake by the boy shrieking from the next room and running asleep into walls and doors, to the back half of my giant Ikea bookcase where novels that have been read and have caused my self-esteem to shatter on the diamond-hard edges of someone else’s talent currently reside, gathering dust and moisture until hitting the mildew tipping point and becoming physically dangerous in their own right. This awesome crew consists mainly of Will Self, Jo…