Friday 8 July 2016

City of the Iron Fish

(June 2016)

Gothic New Weird with a healthy dollop of bildungsroman and one of the most gratingly pretentious protagonists I’ve encountered since Catcher in the Rye. In fact, I’m not even sure it is a bildungsroman, but there’s such a strong connection in my mind between the annoyance I feel for both Holden Caulfield and Thomas Kemp, the narrator of this book, that maybe I’m just collapsing them both in to each other.

The other book I couldn’t help but think of when reading this was The Picture of Dorian Grey, as there’s something very Wildean about both Kemp’s descent into self-hating debauchery and the books wider concern with the intersections of truth and fiction, ugliness and beauty, and thus, by extension, art. The metafiction here is, I think, about how we write out worlds, or at least how art places boundaries on that which it engages. Dolls and borders are recurring themes, and an Opera house, with its bounded stage, is one of the principal locations. The characters are constantly, and often literally, exploring the boundaries between the constructed and the real, and it all makes a kind of sense so that were I in a better (and/or more pretentious, natch) state of mind, it would be hugely enjoyable to pick apart further. Right now, however, I’m still reeling from my country of birth’s decision to tear itself apart for no good reason whatsoever, and the resonances of how we create our worlds through fiction are just a little too close to home.

1 comment:

  1. Why can't the book be as good as the cover?? I don't know if I'd be able to stick with this one, though it sounds like it touches on some topics I'm interested in. Also so sorry about your ol country. It's a very alarming shame.