Thursday, April 07, 2005

And also

I just finished Peter Temple's Black Tide, which I read most of before going to Las Vegas but couldn't justify bringing to read on the plane given that I'd read most of it already. And then it had sort of vanished in the heaps of other books and magazines and unread newspapers when I got back...

It's great. Why, oh why are all these Jack Irish novels not published in the US? Temple writes angelically good prose; I find it almost painful to read because of my conviction that though I would like to, I am never going to be able to write something like this myself. Here's a taste, though I am not sure it will seem quite as alluring in excerpt as it is in the context of the extraordinarily appealing narrative voice. (And I have an obsession with expert knowledge/terminology and also a perverse, powerful but wholly theoretical interest in carpentry.) But check out this amazing prose. In his spare time, to calm himself down, the narrator works for a genius woodworker called Charlie:

Against the righthand wall were the clamp racks: at the bottom, the monster sash clamps; above them, the lesser sizes; in the next rack, the bar clamps, the infantry of joinery, dozens of them in every size; then the frame clamps, the spring clamps, the G-clamps, the ancient wooden screw clamps that Charlie loved best, and flexible wooden go-bars arranged by length. Finally, an assortment of weird clamps, many of them invented by Charlie to solve particular clamping problems.

I can't quite explain why I love this so much, but it's something to do with the dashing repetition & the light touch of the humor & the affection that comes through from the narrator. The language is just gripping. And the plot is difficult to follow in just the right way, there's horse-racing stuff and former-CIA-drug-arms-money-laundering-type intrigue and it's all sort of confusing in the way that REAL intrigues are confusing (the reason that white-collar crime's so hard to prosecute and that even very good journalism has a hard time narrating the details of drugs-for-arms CIA-type deals, because they are full of redundancy and too many different villains to make up a proper list of dramatis personae and all that). This is an exceptionally intelligent and appealing book.

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