Making inroads into my Bespoke reading list, I’ve started reading Three Moments of an Explosion by China Mieville.
Being a fan of Clive Barker and Neil Gaiman, Mieville has been on my radar for a while now, but I’d not managed to pick up anything yet – Three moments is a collection of short stories and feels like an easier place to start than a full-length novel, or diving right into his Bas-lag trilogy. Accessibility is important here because the fiction is, in a precise sense, weird.
I don’t mean weird as in surreal or structurally experimental, although the writing style is plenty fresh so far, nor do I mean fantastic or escapist in setting or genre, but weird as in uncanny or just a little bit unsettling. For example, one story is told from the perspective of a professional poker player who uncovers a phenomenon of ‘hidden’ suits that will appear in game, if the circumstances are just right. One might be dealt, mid-round, the Four of Chimneys, or the Two of Scissors, or even (giving the story its title), the Dowager of Bees. There are special rules which appear and vanish from the rulebooks as needed, as do the cards themselves. Like I said, weird.
I’m enjoying the collection so far. I was pleased to see Mark Bould, who was a lecturer during my degree, named in the acknowledgements. Moreso, I think this’ll have an effect on my writing. Look out for things getting Weird.
I’ve just finished reading Goblin. The ending is quite emotional, although I’ll say no more about that.
The story fits across time and space but is told by a central character, Goblin, whom we meet as a nine year old girl in London at the outbreak of the second world war, and simultaneously as a woman of eighty-one in Edinburgh, in 2011. As a narrator Goblin is tricksy and creative, lending the book a level of Gaiman-esque fantasy and more classical unreliability. We read the story of her life through the book, but are rewarded with new morsels of information each time the tale goes around its axis. Goblin’s identity warps over and over (especially in her younger years) but the character stays the same, constantly growing. The book has adventure, humour, romance, mystery and heartbreak; all the good stuff.
As a debut novelist, Ever Dundas’ personality, ideas and values feel clear to me through the text. There’s a strong animal-rights theme; I feel like half the named cast in the book must be non-human, and looking past the end I catch a “thanks to all who work to eradicate speciesism” in the acknowledgements. I’m looking forward to meeting her, I’m hoping my impression of the person behind this book is correct.
My only regret is my own impatience, buying the Kindle version rather than waiting for a hard copy to come in the post. ebooks can’t be signed, and worse still they can’t be lent out or passed on as gifts, which means I’m going to have to buy at least one more copy.
I’ve done very well over the years, at collecting books that I mean to read. The list grows. When I moved to Dundee I deliberately left all my books, including a respectable collection of comics and graphic novels, in a box in my generous mum’s attic, bringing only my laptop and Kindle as reading material. Even with that I have several unread texts, works that I’m midway through and picking up from time to time, the most recent focus being on Archetypal by Joseph MacKinnon. Until today:
Three new texts have come into my hands, two of which in paperback. The third, Goblin by Ever Dundas, is new and wasn’t in our local Waterstones yet. As I sit to write now I’m half-way through it, and it’s great.
Ever will be speaking at the First Writes event as part of the Dundee Literary Festival later this month, and I’ll be conducting an interview with her afterwards, which will hopefully make its way onto the Dura website.