31: the bird room

Okay, I've just finished Chris Killen's novel, The Bird Room. It's not a very long book; I sped through it before, during, and after work today - but it is an interesting read, and so, fuelled by a cup of tea and half a mint-flavoured Terry's Chocolate Orange, for what it's worth, here's my immediate reaction in the form of variously-sized keywords:

alienation, sad, minimal, black, neurotic, cold, insightful, thoughful, distances, brief, jagged, claustrophobic, anxious, vivid, funny, bleak.

I thought the Will sections were more powerful than the Helen sections, probably because the projections of Will's social anxieties were almost tangible, and made me feel physically uncomfortable while reading, and Helen's sections, though well-rendered, weren't quite as immediately recognisable. (I also wasn't keen on the sister thing, particularly at the end, though I liked the possibilities that sprang up at that last point.)

I liked what I took to be the unreliability of Will's narration; his narration of his relationship with Alice seemed partial and clouded; the sex scenes were horribly bare and honest and miserable.

The most powerful sensation I brought away from my reading was that of alienation; Will's sensation of being a simulacrum or a copy of a real man; his urge to delete and restart his own life, to repeat and erase his life; to deselect people and episodes from existence.

The language is sparse and considered and acurate; even in the midst of misery and depression, there's nuggets of sharp black humour. Though the novel is short - I'd say more of a 'novella' - I think that this minimalist style, a collection of vignettes, bleak snippets of Will and Helen's lives, which read, for me, almost like an extended series of related short stories, is effective at portraying the fear and panic and pain that the characters experience without getting too involved and bogged down in heavy detail. The immediacy of the text is its strength.

Well - that's all I can eke out right now. I thought it was a great read, a real page-turner, and I'd definitely recommend it. Well done Chris, and bring on the next one.

1 comment:

Crispin Best said...

the post office has my copy because i wasn't there to answer my door

i blame chris killen