It’s been a while since I’ve had the gumption to write anything. Life catches up, and you rush it through rather than pause to acknowledge it. So, with respect to this regrettable idea, the book of the month (from only my own biased perspective) goes to If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things by Jon McGregor.
I finished the book only minutes ago. Maybe it’s the freshness of the story in my mind, and the way the emotions it evoked are still pushing against my abdomen, but this novel might just be the most beautiful thing I’ve ever read. Of course, I felt the same way after reading Les Misérables, The Thorn Birds, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. But then, if I’m already clumping McGregor’s first novel into the same hierarchy as these three literary giants, just think of where the author must be headed.
The beginning of If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things was fascinating, but I was hesitant about the style. The book is a diluted form of prose poetry. It reads like a creative novel, except in certain, remarkable places where new paragraphs are started within the same sentence, and you feel like the words should be sung instead of spoken. In context, these areas are powerful, striking. But the beginning seemed a bit too entrenched with poeticism to suit my prose-mindedness. Take these paragraphs from the first page:
The city, it sings.
If you stand quietly, at the foot of a garden, in the middle of a street, on the roof of a house.
It’s clearest at night, when the sound cuts more sharply across the surface of things, when the song reaches out to a place inside you.
It’s a wordless song, for the most part, but it’s a song all the same, and nobody hearing it could doubt what it sings. And the song sings the loudest when you pick out each note.
The low soothing hum of air-conditioners, fanning out the heat and the smells of shops and cafes and offices across the city, winding up and winding down, long breaths layered upon each other, a lullaby hum for tired streets.
The rush of traffic still cutting across flyover, even in the dark hours a constant crush of sound, tyres rolling across tarmac and engines rumbling, loose drains and manhole covers clack-clacking like cast-iron castanets."
This is, undeniably, quite wonderful poetry—the repetition, alliteration, the construction of those clear, vivid descriptions. But as a novel, I was confused and reluctant to give the rest of the book a try. Once you get past the first few introductory pages, though, the narrative of the story and the complete grace of the style will catch you with its claws. And you’ll be happy for it.
You’ll be most happy when you reach the end--when think you have everything all figured out. Just as you know the writing and the story have run out of surprises, it will twist around again, leaving you maybe, or maybe not, sobbing (just a little) and maybe, or maybe not, dashing for that chocolate stash in your room that you’ve been keeping for emergency situations. Sorry to spoil the finale of the emotional journey, but it is quite sad. In all, though, the sadness of it serves as a reminder for just how much we fail to acknowledge every simple, remarkable thing. And that beauty will make every piece of spent chocolate so much sweeter.