Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Red light, green light

Just read what is probably my favorite novel of the year.  It is incredibly good, and not yet published in the US unfortunately (it is going to be hard for me to put it evangelically into people's hands): Alan Warner's The Deadman's Pedal.  Aside from the fact that it includes all sorts of elements I particularly like, the prose is unbeatably perfect, and with a very different set of political and cultural alignments than Alan Hollinghurst, whose books I love but who is coming at things from a point of view that is frequently off-putting to me. 

In a curious way I was much reminded of Alan Garner, whose name is only different by one letter, the Garner of Red Shift rather than Weirdstone.  Geology, place, history, above all language and the particular vocabularies associated with various forms of expert knowledge; I can't think of another book whose idiom quite so precisely and magically as this one captures a whole world with all of its dimensions.  Stuart Kelly's review at the Guardian fortunately saves me the trouble of trying to write a better description here!

Not sure if the feel will translate in a short excerpt, but here are a few sentences I especially liked (they are unusual in the context of the novel as a whole, there is almost an aphoristic quality to the final sentence - not Warner's usual habit - which is why it stood out, though it is quite distinct from the Flaubert-Hollinghurst-St. Aubyn lineage of satirical summing-up):
The bike struggled with their combined weights on the hairpin corner at the top of the King's Way and he had to turn the handlebar gear down to second with the bright headlight of an impatient car behind them before he indicated left and pulled in.
This lay-by, so insignificant in their previous lives, had now become their place of meeting.  The need was less furtive and romantic than that the engine on the new bike struggled to take them both up the longer and steeper hill within the Brae Estate -- as Simon had discovered on his birthday.  Almost all Simon's comments on any future Nikki and he would share involved reference to a more powerful, anticipated motorbike.


  1. Hmm, I remember picking up The Sopranos in a Waterstones when it came out, absolutely serendipitously, and being blown away. But then I couldn't finish the sequel. However, will ask my dad to pick this up, he's coming next week.

  2. OK, you've convinced me. I'm going to order it despite the price!