Skip to main content

Bones of the Moon by Jonathan Carroll

Fans of Neil Gaiman beware – I just might compare these two authors at some point in this review, as what they write shares a feeling for the magic inherent in daily life. One finds Carroll* dwelling in some rather splendid fictional landscapes at times, and it’s only the merest pin-prick away via the thin veneer of supposed reality. When I need a dose of magic realism that doesn't involve sleeping with whores, being in a Latin American country or incurring the wrath of an imam, Carroll and Gaiman are the two to which I would most regularly turn.

The good kind of
magical realism?
In this, an early work, the narrative is centred on a woman with the unlikely name of Cullen, who as a discombobulated young person has an abortion which she both regrets and is relieved to have had. She inhabits two different realms, one “real” and one a dream-scape; one where she finds unconditional love and peace with the man she should have been with originally; and one where she is guiding a small child named Pepsi through a land towards some as yet unseen goal, accompanied by benevolent (so she thinks) monster animals with hats. The clued up amongst you will probably have spotted the pretty obvious device here, and frankly, it wasn’t really a shock to me either. Pepsi appears to be (and is later confirmed as) her aborted son.

At this point, I might want to say that as far as stories about the lives aborted foetuses may have had go, this fares particularly poorly when put up against something of the scope of Where The Dead Live by Will Self, a blisteringly brilliant novel on many levels. In fact, I might go further and say that I feel the author is often living in his own world, occasionally spilling bits onto paper and allowing the reader vaguely connected but incomplete access thereto. Look hard enough at his work and you will spot cameos from many characters in other books – in this case the director Weber Gregston, star of what some might call a “morbid yet subtle psychological horror story”, A Child Across The Sky. Recurring characters and motifs, and preposterous fantasy realms make for some difficulty in suspending disbelief sufficiently for me, a properly jaded reader, to enjoy his novels properly.

And yet (he says again) enjoy them I do, even if not in their entirety. Carroll has a disturbing flair with his dream-like situations, and produces works which are moreish even as they are fleetingly remembered. Whilst not whole and hearty fare like that of Gaiman, it is delicate and dangerous, to a degree, and definitely a worthwhile addition to a fantasy fan’s library. Horror, however, these books are not. For a fuller exploration of just what horror is (pre-Saw splatter fests), please refer to Brian Lumley.


*Forgive the sporting reference at this point, but as a Liverpool (Football Club) fan I find myself uneasy with such regular use of the name “Carroll” and will therefore try to limit it from here on in. 

Comments

  1. Gaiman has said repeatedly that he thinks Carroll is one of the best living writers, and that BONES OF THE MOON was the inspiration for his own A GAME OF YOU (which he dedicated to Carroll and Tori Amos btw)

    Astrid B.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Indeed, and he waxes lyrical on Carroll's merits on JC's own website (http://www.jonathancarroll.com/about/introduction.html) but also hints at lacunae in the oeuvre with the phrase "His most successful books and tales defy genre categorisation", leaving space for an interpretation by the cynic of a hierarchy of value. I would suggest JC is as self-indulgent as any other writer and shouldn't be pilloried for it, but his eyes see things differently from mine.

      Delete

Post a Comment

How's about that then?

A Death In The Family: My Struggle Volume 1 by Karl Ove Knausgaard

I sit here, wearing my limited edition Knausgaard t-shirt, immensely grateful to the kind people at Vintage Books for their surprising gift of the first four novels (and aforementioned t-shirt) simply as a result of being able to post a comment on their YouTube Vlog. There may have been a hidden agenda, considering I'm a book blogger (What, interrobang, a book blogger, interrobang and so on...) but I prefer to believe they picked me at random. Because I'm ace. 
Nonetheless, I had no idea what to expect of these books. I did do a little reading, and found lots of very interesting articles about Karl Ove Knausgaard, including this entertaining one in the Wall Street Journal. But in all honesty, nothing prepared me for reading them, and I can see why they cause controversy and consternation wherever they are translated (which is pretty much everywhere).
First off, being intelligent and perspicacious readers as I trust you all to be, you will no doubt have spotted the whole Godwin&#…

A Bright Moon For Fools by Jasper Gibson

Ah, what would be a review penned by yours truly without some sort of grovelling apology at the outset? A better review no doubt, but that aside I can't help but continue the tiresome tradition with an apology. Sorry to my regular robotic readers (hi bots!) but I have been very neglectful of the blog of late, having been tied up with my pursuit of a broader spectrum of dilettantism; I've been taking part in a number of MOOCs offered by various HEIs on the FutureLearn platform. Worth checking out if you ask me.

(Subtle enough plug, you think?)
Anyway, the break afforded by a foray into further education has proved something of a test for Jasper Gibson and his fiction. In truth, it took me a little while to remember what exactly the novel was about, who was in it, and how I felt about the whole thing. Instant alarm bells. Of course, having had a break, I'd had a good crack at filling my head with a whole bunch of other things worth remembering, so maybe it all just got squeeze…

Open Door by Iosi Havilio

*Shame Klaxon*
I am ashamed to admit it but I know next to nothing about Borges. I know the names of his books. I know he crops up almost without fail when conversations include literature from South America. I know his words book-end so many novels that I have that habitual proving-my-bold-assertion-mind-blankness which means my brain knows it to be true and won't humour your scepticism with an example*. And I know it's likely the biggest single lacuna in my entire reading history**.
So you may imagine my lack of surprise, on finishing this novel and reading the afterword by Oscar Guardiola-Rivera, lecturer at Birkbeck College, London, and author of works on the history and politics of Latin America, that Borges pops up, within three lines of text. Three lines! He wastes no time does Oscar. Of course, my shame bristled and I was ready to adopt the usual casual hostility to something of which I was ignorant. But straight away, I understood what he was saying. I have often consid…

UnAmerican Activities by James Miller

I don't think I was asked to honour the old convention that a freebie necessitates an honest if gently favourable review (at least I can find no written proof). I will however, name-check the generous (and possibly over-optimistic) @TheWorkshyFop, editorial director of the independent British publisher, Dodo Ink, from whose proof boxes of new November lead titles this one arrived. Thank you, sir!
I recall James Miller, specifically Lost Boys, from the dim and distant past. It may have been a commission for Waterstones Books Quarterly, or perhaps I was doing a solid for the Little, Brown sales rep. Regardless, I remember nothing about the book except being underwhelmed. From reading old reviews, it seems it had the coat-tails of the contemporaneous zeitgeist in its teeth, but one slightly savage Guardian review* points out it was pretty badly done. This might explain why I remember very little, perhaps proving Auden's assertion that, "some books are undeservedly forgotten; …