Friday, January 10, 2014


One great thing about reading all of an author's work is the insight it gives into that person and their obsessions.

Donna Tartt and childhood bereavement. Bret Easton Ellis and self-obsessed paranoia. Cormac McCarthy and how love destroys us.

I spent the last year reading McCarthy's The Border Trilogy, which undoubtedly accounted for the lack of activity on this blog—all my thoughts were dismantled, held hostage by McCarthy's breathtaking, exquisitely horrific view of life.

When I say McCarthy, people mention The Road or No Country for Old Men, both of which are romps, rollicks, mere excursions when compared to the massive, marathon-esque insurmountability of McCarthy's unrelenting hopelessness in The Border Trilogy. I recommend it.

But all of these are Americans. By comparison, I've started to realise how apparently conservative, how seemingly gallant and polite are the British authors I've read. Their world view is more proper, more cultivated, and their works lack the staring, helpless overwhelm of the Americans.

Yet authors like Greene and Godden, Du Maurier and Lawrence reveal obsessions as ungraspable as the Americans'—they just do it more subtly.

With the Americans, you put the book down at the end of a passage gasping from the force of emotion in those paragraphs. You're as overwhelmed as they are.

With the Britons, you put the book down at the end of the passage in wonder, because what you thought was happening there was in fact a mask for something much deeper, and while you were caught up on the surface, you now realise, the author was whispering a darker, second story to your soul.

Either way, though, you get to the truth.

Right now I'm reading an author of each nationality. Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch presents the same premise as her previous two books: a great loss in childhood, and enormous, unapproachable grief to which some parts of the character, at least, must somehow adapt. And each line is designed to engulf the reader a little more completely, viz.:

"What had happened, I knew, was irrevocable, yet at the same time it seemed there had to be some way I could go back to the rainy street and make it all happen differently."