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Nocturnal Animals by Austin Wright

Well typed, clean pages.
She wondered what the title meant.
I've no clear memory of when, where and why I decided to obtain and read this novel. I make no claims therefore to its place in the intertextual flow of my life. In fact, I have begun to fear this record is simply so much vanity and fluff, given I've let it slip to such alarming degrees that I'm personally amazed it was all of four months ago that I read this. 

Regardless, I can clearly recall the novel itself, such was its effect. Reading an old Telegraph review, I was pleased to note their observation of echoes of David Lynch, something I had noticed but to which maybe I hadn't put a name at the time. In retrospect, it did leave me feeling like I did when binge-watching Twin Peaks last year before embarking on the new season. It is in parts creepy and unsettling, and in others eerily disturbing in its acute facility with the depressing lives of suburban Americans. 

The story goes that Susan, housewife and frustrated writer, given over to the quotidian boredom of keeping house for her surgeon husband, receives in the mail a manuscript from her ex-husband Edward, whose writerly ambitions had seemed to have died when they were married, twenty years past, leading to the end of the relationship. He asks her to read it, and she is flattered and annoyed in equal measure, unsure if she will or not.

Of course she does.

What she reads is the story of a man, Tony Hastings, whose life is torn asunder by the rape and murder of his wife and daughter after an altercation on an American highway. In the inevitability of this crime, the reader has little chance to hope for a happy outcome. Indeed, by adding the interface of a reader, in the form of Susan, Wright has managed to take some of the power of the (actual) reader to create the story themselves away from them by offering plausible reactions ranging from contempt to a frisson of illicit excitement at the horror unfolding. The same Telegraph article mentions how railroaded a reader might find themselves bu this artifice, but to be frank, I didn't much care. The writing is crisp and clean, Susan is the epitome of white middle-class America dragging her rather dull history behind her through the fresh green lawns of suburbia, and Tony is a man beset by his passivity, eager to be directed along a path chosen for him and never taking the opportunity to forge his own. 

That chimes with me somewhat too.

In feeling, this is a weird, unsettling novel. In its readability, it surpassed expectation, Wright's writerly writing cleverly submerged beneath the metaliterary artifice. It's one to tear through, maybe in only three evening sittings as did Susan with Nocturnal Animals the name of Edward's novel in the novel.

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