Saturday, September 05, 2009

Magical realism

If someone put me on the spot and forced me to name my favorite living writer, I would hem and haw for a while - it is impossible to narrow these things down! - but there would be a good chance, when it came down to it, that I would have to utter the name PETER TEMPLE...

An advance reading copy of his forthcoming novel Truth came my way shortly before I left town in August; it is the sequel to The Broken Shore, and I decided to reread that one first before savoring the new one.

They are the most extraordinary pair of books; often I will single out a sentence or passage that I especially like in a novel, but in this case it is almost impossible to do. Everything is so distinctive and lovely in its formation that it does not make sense to excerpt.

I was thinking as I read about what makes Temple so unusual. He strikingly combines the poet's strengths with the journalist's - it is a very rare combination - Richard Price occasionally gets something a bit like this, but Temple has a much better sense of humor, as well as a deeper interest in character.

His ear for language is exceptional. Sentence by sentence, the casual reader might mistake this stuff for an unreflectively realistic approach to the transcription of human actions, but the cumulative effect is to leave behind a suspicion that Temple has cunningly and covertly invented an entirely new system of notation, one that cleverly masquerades as something like normal writing but is actually mind-blowingly and deceptively original and powerful...



  1. Well, you've sold me. I'll be off to the bookstore Tuesday when I'm back in the neighborhood.

  2. You are so lucky! This one is not out in the UK yet. He is published here by the lovely Quercus, so I am hoping very much that they'll send me an advance copy. I've read all his books so far- and although his protagonist is pretty much the same character in all the books, I adore them all. As you write, the books are like prose poems, such beautiful use of language.