Monday 1 June 2015

Now and then I buy a book on the strength of a review, often in The New Yorker. I enjoyed reading about Nell Zink, I liked the sound of her publisher called Dorothy. A review is a mild and orderly affair. Turning the pages of a book is bumpier, more savage.

You have to read The Wallcreeper fast, the way it was written, in about three weeks, we're not surprised to learn. The language is emotionless, a bit chilly and clipped, maybe defensive, often sardonic, funny in a diggy way, as if the world deserves all the stink it gets. Going from Henry James to this is asking for trouble. One all suggestion and the other nekked as the day we die.

One phrase from the review that stayed with me involved Nell Zink's life-raft being hailed by the container ship Franzen. I've read Franzen on birds but not Franzen. I liked Nell Zink better on the life-raft. There are so many writers on their life-rafts, writing diaries, studying birds, breaking riverbanks, scooting after fresh sex between one shore and another.

The eponymous wallcreeper has been lacerated by a hawk by page 55. What are we to think? Nonchalance is a great leveller. Or is it fever? When you write this fast you have plenty of hours in the day to count birds, learn birdcalls, flood old riparian woodland and covet your neighbouring eco activist. The eco actions themselves are about as much fun as a routine burglary, hardly a heist; little excitement builds around the next round of infidelity. At the end she surmises about the movie version.

I understand her attitude; maybe I don't like understanding her. I'm disconcerted by being able to understand her. Not everyone is asking for empathy. Not everyone has received it.

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