Rapidly becoming one of my favourite authors after three books read; the astounding and hilarious Restraint Of Beasts followed by the minor but haunting Three To See The King and today the mass transit exegesis The Maintenance Of Headway, whose 140 pages are essentially an assortment of observations of the organisational challenges of bus driving, among which two amazing book-length jokes are set up and executed.
Really, he is notable for the book-length joke. He uses this notion - the abrupt, ironic twist ending - to frame the most wonderful treatments of work, its absurdity, its necessity, and the friction it creates with and between those tasked to do it. It helps of course that he was a worker - bus driver, fence builder, other - until his forties, and only then achieved publication. Presumably he had been jotting down ideas the whole time.
He has about 14 books now, all short. I feel I could read them all in a few days. But I wonder if he's topped the debut. I scarcely think he could, because I scarcely think anyone could. How close has he come, though?
― imago, Thursday, 16 May 2019 20:57 (one month ago) Permalink
Sold. Ordered the bus one.
― don't mock my smock or i'll clean your clock (silby), Thursday, 16 May 2019 23:48 (one month ago) Permalink
if you like it, please do read The Restraint Of Beasts, it's one of my absolute favourite books ever
― imago, Friday, 17 May 2019 00:35 (one month ago) Permalink
Surprised to learn he's written 14 books - I haven't seen any reviews lately, perhaps he's fallen out of fashion. I remember the hullabaloo over his debut - I think it was Booker-shortlisted? - and I read it and then Three To See The King and enjoyed them both, although I don't remember an awful lot about them.
― Zelda Zonk, Friday, 17 May 2019 00:40 (one month ago) Permalink
I was exaggerating slightly - it's more like 10, plus a couple of story collections. The debut should have won the Booker tbh. It occupies a similar stratum for me as The Last Samurai - another turn-of-millennium debut by a London-based author that it's fairly impossible to imagine an improvement upon (I guess Tom McCarthy's Remainder fits here, too - and he certainly hasn't come close to topping his first roll)
― imago, Friday, 17 May 2019 00:46 (one month ago) Permalink
imago I read The Maintenance of Headway and it was a hoot, thanks!
― don't mock my smock or i'll clean your clock (silby), Sunday, 9 June 2019 00:42 (one week ago) Permalink
no problem! I'm on a London bus right now as it happens. we are not early
also earlier my other bus raced past some stops even though people signalled and I thought of the book and how there really are drivers like that
― imago, Sunday, 9 June 2019 15:14 (one week ago) Permalink