Saturday, August 07, 2004

Stephen Elliott's Happy Baby

I'd been meaning to get hold of this for a while, but the recent rave by Stephany reminded me. I hit the library and found it in a strange little nook at the very back of the tenth floor of Butler Library: PR is the Library of Congress code for British literature, PS for American, and they are subdivided within these categories by something to do with the date of the author. So this is the wing where it's fiction by relatively young people (I expect if I looked online, I could figure the cutoff--I'd guess 1965, or maybe 1970). My novel was there, pretty exciting to see it in a good old library binding. And I got Monique Truong's The Book of Salt, which I've also been wanting to read. And Stephen Elliott's Happy Baby.

And it was about midnight last night and I'd finally finished revising my chapter on shibboleths and elocutionists and I picked up another volume by Terry Pratchett but I've temporarily stalled on that (Hogfather: excellent; Maskerade: minor but entertaining; Thief of Time: I like that Susan character but book didn't live up to Hogfather standard; Interesting Times, too goofy to be really enjoyable). So I pushed the huge pile of books on the couch aside and sat down with Happy Baby.

And it is amazingly good. I see in it a lot of things I tried to do in Heredity, only really done better here. This book is sexier and also more beautifully and elegantly written. It's really, really excellent. Read it. I was relieved to see Elliott quoted somewhere as saying that it took him two years to write and that he was working on it every day all day and refining the prose. Because he's got that amazingly lucid style where you fear that it might just come out of him all perfect like that. In which case he would deserve to die... I completely identify with the main female character, I am sorry to say. I like the backwards time structure. Most of all though I like the sentences and the way they add up into these very intense scenes.

I wish I had written this book.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jenny,

    Thanks for the kind review of Happy Baby.

    Stephen Elliott