Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Monday, 15 October 2012

"The Spot" by David Means (Faber and Faber, 2010)

Slo-mo (or zoom-in, or zoom-out) as the action gets intense. Details provoking major asides. Tonal juxtapositions. Lyricism. Essay-style detachment.

A separated man hears noises in the room above. -

Most certainly, there are gentle knocks, sweet knocks, but those usually fall into the category of soft rappings: the late-night arrival, the lover-to-lover. message-through-the-wall (often adulterous) tap; the old-school, salesman-at-the-door, Fuller Brush five-knuckle rap - a deep anachronism now, replaced long ago by the doorbell, of course, which, in turn, has been replaced by the phone ring. To the receiver of the knock, all theories, no matter how plausible and how sensible, and destroyed by the sound itself - p.5

Eventually he accepts the repeated noises as Zen hammering, silently encouraging the person living above.

In "A river in Egypt" a man's son isn't well

Outside, down in the street, the traffic signals would be cheeping, making a sound meant to guide the blind, if there were any. In the four years that he'd been going over the bridge to visit Dr. Brackett, he had never seen a single blind soul using the audible signals to cross the street. The streets in White Plains were always dusty and forlorn, and somehow reminded him of a Western town just before a shootout; folks were hidden away, peeking out in anticipation of violence. - p.31-2
he cried the way a man must cry when he's driving, keeping both hands on the wheel and his eyes wide open through the blur, and he cried the way a man must cry when he is exhausted from being up deep into the night while his boy coughs up almost unbelievable quantities of phlegm, clearly succumbing to a disease process - as his doctor called it - that at that point was indeterminate; he cried for himself as much as for his son, and for the world that was unfolding to his left, an open vista, the gaping mouth of the river, which at that moment was flowing down to the sea, hurrying itself into the heart of New York Harbor. He was crying like a man on a bridge, suspended between two sides of life, trapped in the blunt symbolism of the spans - p.35

"Nebraska" is one of the stories featuring a heist.

all frozen there for a movement in the fear and agony until there is the flash of muzzle fire and then - in what seems to be a modulated time/space, not slow motion but rather something else, a kind of compact glimmering shimmer of movement - the fat man falls to the side, collapsing under the weight of his torso as his knees give, falling to the ground and then bowing down, prayerfully, his dark oil-slicked hair glinting in the light - p.52

In the heat of the moment, the getaway van reverses -

a musky earthen smell of the river that seemed to bring the whole scene - the cracked dirty macadam, the green Dumpsters stenciled with white lettering, the drab back doorways (each painted a russet color) - into some congruence with the natural world, the everlasting world that would eternally outlast these stupid sinning willful men who were dying by their own clock. So when she backed up and around to escape she was thinking of that smell, and of the river, and she turned too fast and struck the lady with the car, clattering her load, spilling her cart and sacks of groceries and knocking her to the ground. (She was an older lady, not so enfeebled but frail-looking, in a long smocklike coat, pale yellow, with eyeglasses of wire rims and a dusky-looking hairdo, pulled up; she was one of theses old ladies who went to the beauty palor weekly and had her bouffant arranged and neatened and listened to the patter and gossip but with a certain reserve; she was originally from St. Louis and had a certain composure that came from the Middle West and still, at times, found herself strangely and oddly out of place in her New Jersey town, right on the border of New York.) The men shouted to her to stop - p.53

"Reading Checkov" is in fragments. This is the third -

Adultery is multifaceted, he said. It's shapeless but at the same time has a rudimentary figure, like a snowflake; an abundance of clichés surround it and yet it's unique, an entity different each time. Over the window in hus bedroom was a grate secured with a large padlock. The sun came through the grate and then the embroidered curtains he brought back from Spain, spreading a lattice across her body that he traced with his fingers, from her belly - with its cesarian scar - to her chin. - p.76.

My favourites are "Spontaneous Human Combustion", "The Gulch" and "The Junction". In "The Junction" beggars discuss how to engage sympathy. This idea of preparing for an event involving emotions (be it sympathy or in the case of bank robbing, fear, heroism, duty, etc) suits Means' treatment.

No comments:

Post a Comment