Tuesday 21 September 2010

'His glance happens to skim the heavens. Heaps of scattered lights make his hair stand on end. He's never wanted to know what they are or what they stand for. He has had the childish wish to fly among them. He doesn't wish that now; just looking at them is frightening.'

A small-time pimp and fixer schemes his schemes, looks back on his short, sordid life and comes face to face with the unforeseen. Is it a murder mystery in disguise or just another hard luck tale?

The translator's introduction holds up Chekhov and Camus as comparisons and influences on Nagarajan's blend of realism and existentialism.

These are good comparisons and valid reference points, but the book also puts me in mind of the bleak visions of noir writers like Chandler and Hammett and especially the novels of Simenon, themselves a form of existentialist crime fiction. This in turn puts me in mind of James Sallis, basically an existentialist who writes crime fiction. These are only comparisons, Nagarajan was not exposed to any of the writers I've just named, as far as I know.

Nagarajan's fictional world is bleaker than all these writers', except perhaps Simenon's, and there's a strong sense that this might be because it is, in fact, identical with the real world. An unforgettable narrative and a perfect miniature, containing vaster volumes than many longer novels.

Monday 20 September 2010

When you work in communications or the media, and fancy yourself a writer, and read a lot, in some way your whole life revolves around the production and consumption of words. Joseph Nacino lives that life too, and here he's turned the allure of the verbal, the satisfying flavour and fullness of some words, the tart bitterness of others, the queasy richness of neologisms, the sickly-sweet heaviness of cliche into the hook for an amazingly richly-realised tale of a man whose appetite for words is very, very literal. It's also his first international publication; doubtless the first of many.

Sunday 19 September 2010

Like Despair, this novel hinges on a sleight of hand. In the case of Despair, the narrator failed to see things as clearly as we, the readers, could. In The Eye, the narrator carries out a substitution trick a short while into the book,something I only started to suspect towards the end. I'm not quite clever enough for Nabokov, but I hope to improve. Along the way, there's the expected but nonetheless delectable mix of verbal pyrotechnics and many a startling, searching insight into love, obsession, identity and volition.

Friday 17 September 2010

a lifeless voice intones empty words

10 lucky people can download a .wav file containing a recording of me reading out the first 500 or so words of my story Empty Dreams, in a blatant attempt to copy my friend Suresh, except that I held the mike too close and there are all these disturbing thumping noises. Gah.

ETA: Thanks to the munificence of pal Suresh, who has a premium Rapidshare account, more than ten people can now enjoy this. Even though I have to say it felt really weird including the words 'more than ten people' and 'enjoy this' in that sentence.

Wednesday 15 September 2010

inverted blindness...

My friend Suresh is one of the best weird fictioneers you've never read. And you still don't need to! Here, on his blog, is a recording of one of his most concise, mind-blowing and vividly realised tales.

Sunday 5 September 2010

The Petterson book was vivid, evocative, a deeply imagined and felt character study. It also featured an almost haphazard narrative flow, leaping back and forth more or less at random, a narrative voice that was gently reminiscent at best, almost soporific at worst. It was a compelling enough read because of its richly imagined main characters, even gripping at the time, but it somehow failed to leave a distinctive aftertaste of any kind. I remember thinking it was almost too easy to read and it may prove even easier to forget.