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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.


How's about that then?

Breakfast Of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut

In days gone by, when repeatedly pressed about what my favourite book might be, a banal question seeking an impossible and crude reductionist answer to which I was usually rude in response, I would offer Breakfast Of Champions as a pacifier. 

I first read it in University, and it has, to some degree, influenced how I think and feel about a lot of things. Strikingly, I've never wanted to re-read it. Perhaps I was afraid I'd find fault the second time around and wanted to uphold it as a paragon of meta-fiction. Perhaps, but then I'm a relentless consumer of fiction and was always on to the next consumable work, never having time or inclination to go back.

So in the spirit of a more considered and thoughtful phase of my life I decided I wanted to read something that once made me feel good.

I'd clearly not remembered it very well.

But before that, I'm amazed I've gone *mumbles* years without once mentioning Kilgore Trout in my reviews, even in passing. The same goes fo…

Fup by Jim Dodge

If there was a comfort-food version of a book for me, then this would be it. It's funny, touching, humanistic, and features so many quotable quotes that its trim 120 pages could be represented in its entirety on some such authors' quotations page.

We're introduced to Tiny on the occasion of his mother's death, lured into a treacherously fatal situation by, of all things, a duck, while her 4-year-old son sleeps in the car where he wakes to a terrifying solitude. Meanwhile, we're treated to a potted but entertaining history of Granddaddy Jake, Tiny's grandfather, into whose care by fair means or foul (no pun intended) he is finally placed. But the titular Fup duck comes along only once Tiny is fully grown (and how!). A lost and lonely duckling, much like Tiny, she's discovered shivering in a freshly dug post hole, which betrays the attention paid to it by Tiny's nemesis, a wild hog called Lockjaw, who enjoys tearing up Tiny's fences just as much as he …

Concrete by Thomas Bernhard

I thought I'd talked about Thomas Bernhard here somewhere before - the vitriol, the bitterness, the hilarity that was Old Masters - but it appears not, or, more likely, that I search like I think; superficially. Nevertheless, at least I now have the opportunity to present him for your consideration, albeit with the oily glaze of my opinion applied liberally. 

An Austrian author and playwright, Bernhard had a curious relationship with the land of his birth. He was highly critical of both the people and state, regularly attacking the church, the government, the populace (who he labelled stupid and stubbornly contemptuous) and venerable old institutions like the concert halls and cultural venues of Vienna. Indeed, in his will, he strictly forbade any new productions of his works, both unpublished novels and poems, and stagings of his plays. His characters often deliver long monologues filled with bile and spite, frequently inhabiting considered but oddly irrational-seeming positions. …

Love And Obstacles by Aleksandar Hemon

"When he was young, like me, he said, he used to think that all the great writers knew something he didn't... He was burning to write, he wanted to break through to that fancy knowledge, he was hungry for it. But now he knew that that hunger was vainglorious; now he knew that writers knew nothing, really; most of them were just faking it. He knew nothing. There was nothing to know, nothing on the other side." – The Noble Truth of SufferingYou know me and short stories–I shan't revisit old graves–but every now and again I find a collection, usually with one author, that simply blows me away. Something in them speaks to personae I didn't even know I hid behind. Something rips free the mask, the fiercely clutched identity, fake as you like, and exposes everything. Those authors I fall madly in love with, because I hate them. I detest that they can say things that are as yet unformed zygotes in the barren womb of my mind, not even the germ of a clumsy, badly phrased …