Thursday, 22 March 2012

Compelling, disturbing, bleakly funny

There has been much buzz around 99 Reasons Why because of the choice of eleven endings, however, I quickly forgot about this quirk when I was reading the novel, I was so drawn in to 22-yr-old Kate’s world, a world that would be unremittingly grim were it not for Caroline Smailes' voice - she is brilliant at broken, abused lives, with just enough  humour to keep you from turning away. I laughed out loud a few times. Kate’s Princess Diana fantasies (her collection of eBay memorabilia heartbreaking ), her ‘job’ of spying on the nursery across the road, and the extreme lovelessness she experiences don’t add up to much of an existence, but the narration is compelling, and the chapters are wonderfully titled - and short (I love short chapters!).  At one point Kate describes a police visit to her home: ‘The blue lights are going, bouncing into me bedroom.’ A gorgeous image for a grim situation.

When the choice of endings came, it felt slightly dislocating as I’d been so engrossed in the story - but it also made me think about what we expect - and need - as readers. Then I felt excited. I tried three endings, the third one satisfied me most, I felt it was the rightful piece in the jigsaw. I decided not to try the rest, it could become addictive (though I don't want to miss any of them, and  will  go back). I think Caroline is to be congratulated on the boldness and cleverness of this novel. I loved it.

3 comments:

Mim said...

Will this novel inspire you to write more fiction? I hope so.

Warm regards from South Beach

nmj said...

Hey Mim, It’s honestly not just a question of inspiration - though, God knows, we all need that too! I need more to be able to sustain a narrative of a few hundred pages, without doing myself in, it’s very hard to pace when writing a novel, it’s always there nagging you – years of it! And just when I was recovering physically from writing TSoM, and all the liquidation stress of old publisher (thankfully, a happy outcome), that truly took about a year, I got recurrent uveitis (summer 2009) which was so disruptive and upsetting and has taken until recently to be fully resolved (though it could recur at any time and I must be careful not to be stressed on top of all the usual ME neuro stuff, there is definitely sth autoimmune afoot now too).

I’ve actually written much shorter pieces more recently, here and there, and was shortlisted for a story award last year (links are in sidebar). But, yes, never say never for another book, it would be a joy for me, I have an idea and have been making some notes in the background, I just don’t discuss it, even talking about it feels like pressure. I’m also pleased shorter books seem to be in vogue now, esp in ebook format, so I wouldn’t need anything like 100 000 words (TSoM is).

But my health comes first, always and absolutely, it has to.

I very much wanted to review Caroline’s new book before it just added to my long list of to-be-reads, so I read it over three days and sat up lateish to review and woke up yesterday feeling punched all over. That is my reality, one foot in ill world, one in well. A truly bizarre world. The good thing about writing though is that even when you are reading others you are somehow perpetually preparing the ground for your own words. You can’t write if you don’t read, and my reading habits, utterly choppy, very much mirror the necessity of my stop and start writing life. But it is - for now - a writing life and for that I am very grateful.

nmj said...

Michael Nobbs has a wonderful site on creativity and limited energy.

Though even after all these years, I find it almost impossible to manage my energy, I feel I'm always overdoing it.

And just to add, I had a wonderful book launch when TSoM came out, one of the loveliest nights of my life, but I couldn't/can't do the writer's tour thing, and since I don't have another book to promote, I also need/want to have some kind of author's presence, hence my blog (which also informs about the illness, still misrepresented, criminally, by some), and my slight social media platform through Twitter (I only have 30 friends on FB though!).

But very useful that I can keep the momentum of TSoM going, though that cannot be interesting forever, and I try to do it in a way that doesn't bore the arse off everyone ;)

Social media can also be supportive and warm and fun, but it's tough deciding where to direct your energies. I find Twitter like a flashing cockpit, I can only absorb so much and I have to get away, I used to only follow 100 people at any one time but am upping it as it was too restrictive, a bit silly. But it is a gorgeous thing, if used in moderation.