Sunday, January 01, 2006

Oh my god, I have just read the most perfect novel

and it is The Tooth Fairy by Graham Joyce. I can't believe how good it was. Indescribable, but a bit like what you'd get if you asked Alan Garner to rewrite Jonathan Coe's The Rotters' Club. The opening scene is one of the best I've ever read. And I want a Nightmare Interceptor!

Someone recently recommended this book to me, which was why I got it at the library on Thursday, but I can't for the life of me remember who. If it was you, PLEASE tell me in the comments so I can thank you properly! And in fact I also had a strong and uncanny feeling as I was reading the book that I'd read it before. I am sure this isn't the case, it was published in 1996 and in any case it is such a good novel it's inconceivable I could have read it and not remembered . . . hmmm. Maybe it just has that mythic-and-you-could-swear-something-like-this-happened-to-YOU-as-a-child kind of feel; also it is so perfect in every sentence that it comes at you more like a landscape than a work of art. Very interesting and surreal effect. I am reading all his other books IMMEDIATELY, unfortunately I only got one other one from the library but this stuff is completely addictive.

(Sara Ryan also has a Graham Joyce fixation. Maybe that's where I saw it. But actually I am positive someone recommended it to me directly . . . clearly my memory is disintegrating under the influence of this most peculiar and excellent novel.)

The other book I started reading last night & finished this afternoon was something of a disappointment, Denise Hamilton's The Jasmine Trade. I could see why she's gotten so much positive attention, there are some very good things about the book--good journalistic-political LA stuff, for instance, and much-above-average sentence-writing--I got all 4 of the series out of the library--but by about halfway through I was unfortunately in serious doubt as to whether I should even finish it. I don't really care about plotting in itself, but if you are going to attempt to write a realistic private-investigator novel you just CAN'T have such patently absurd plot points. And the other thing was that I had an unprecedented dislike for the main character/narrator. Either the portrait is psychologically implausible or else Eve Diamond is a total nightmare. The thing that finally did it for me was when Eve goes for a run with her neighbor's dog Bon Jovi, is followed by 2 Chinese gang members in a fake UPS truck & then shot at. They hit the dog. She drags the dog's body into a toolshed, then walks home after the assassins have fled. There is NO description of what she does with the dog's body after that. She goes to the cops, goes home and goes to sleep, talks to various people on the phone, and only THEN remembers "suddenly that I would have to break the news about Bon Jovi to [the neighbor]." Maybe I'm a crazy person, but don't you think that she would have called the neighbor FIRST THING to tell her the dog was dead? And suggested that, you know, she should go and retrieve the body from the shed before someone found it and freaked the hell out? I realize this is an odd thing to fixate on, but the book is full of stuff like this. Not so much my kind of thing.


  1. Yay, The Tooth Fairy! I had the exact same reaction as you when I read this. I'd just read Sister Noon, which was the first novel fo Karen Joy Fowler's I ever read, and every other thing I picked up was just not good enough in comparison. So, I picked up The Tooth Fairy from a pile of books in the hovel Christopher lived in then because it had a blurb by Karen. And I just thought it was perfect.

    It's still my favorite of his novels (just like Sister Noon's still my favorite, Bones of the Moon of Jonathan Carroll's and Mockingbird of Sean Stewart's) -- there's something special about the first book you read by certain writers.

  2. The recommendation came from me, and though I like it very much, there are moments when the language skews just a tiny bit into the pretentious, possibly trite. An example (p. 276 of my pb Gollanzc edition): 'In the moments between sleeping and waking, in the airless workshop where thoughts are forged into words, there came to Sam a voice, speaking out of the dark, intimate, reassuring, reasonable. Suicide, said the voice from the dark, suicide.'

    And I wonder if the resolution of the Dead Scout strand is too convenient. What do you think?

    But all in all, a wonderful, rich, imaginative read. Since you like YA novels, try his TWOC - lots of fun!

    Another recommendation, by the way: the new volume of Michel Faber's short stories, The Fahrenheit Twins.