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 (ten months ago) link
Sold. Ordered the bus one.
― don't mock my smock or i'll clean your clock (silby), Thursday, 16 May 2019 23:48 (ten months ago) link
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 (ten months ago) link
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 (ten months ago) link
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 (ten months ago) link
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 (nine months ago) link
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 (nine months ago) link
Just finished A Cruel Bird Came To The Nest And Looked In. While the internet might be a bit more lukewarm about this one, take it from me: it's a major work, with some of his strongest characterisation and a brilliant, sly resolution. Above all, it's just really charming. So much, he writes about language-choices made in the everyday realm, and how much these choices can signify
― imago, Thursday, 20 June 2019 06:42 (nine months ago) link
I read Restraint of Beasts about ten years ago and I still think about it. It's glib to say 'ooh, Kafka' but it has that same sense of the characters being trapped in some cosmic trap beyond their ken. And, like Kafka, it's very funny. I've, stupidly, not read anything of his since. I shall rectify this.
― Good cop, Babcock (Chinaski), Thursday, 20 June 2019 08:42 (nine months ago) link
So much, he writes about language-choices made in the everyday realm, and how much these choices can signify
This sounds interesting, as does this thread (love enthused imago ILB threads!). Will order some for the upcoming holiday! :)
― Uptown VONC (Le Bateau Ivre), Thursday, 20 June 2019 23:36 (nine months ago) link