Thursday, January 14, 2010

Speaking of remarkable....

To call Jon McGregor’s If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things, a remarkable book, would be trite, but accurate. This 2002 nominee for the Booker Prize was an accidental find for me and now I think you should move with all deliberate haste to read it. It is an unusual book, inviting readers into the lives of residents of a quiet, urban street in England over the course of a single day. After the prose-poem prologue, the reader is aware, from the first page, of a tragic event that occurs on the street, but is never quite sure what it is. All is revealed in the end, but to skip from the beginning to the end of this book would be to miss the point.

The Times reviewer says “A dream of a novel … McGregor has the gift of reminding his readers of that heaven in a wild flower, that infinity in a grain of sand.” This book is observation; witness; a chronicling of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touch, and actions that speak volumes about the characters: the boy at number eighteen with the sore eyes, the woman at number nineteen waking in the night, the girl in twenty-two with the short blonde hair and the little square glasses. The reader enters the story as another observer. The author juxtaposes all this detail, watching and knowing against themes of not seeing, not knowing, not naming.

There are mysteries, there are surprises, there are other themes, there is plot – and I can’t tell you any of this, as to reveal too soon, would be to diminish the power and fascination of this unique book. So, you just have to take my word for it, “read it and find out”, and then come talk to me. Soon!

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