Monday, April 26, 2010

The Bloodstone Papers

Are there any good new writers anymore? There are plenty of prolific heavyweights (Stephen King, Barbara Kingsolver, Joyce Carol Oates, etc.) but below that pantheon
(and especially among younger writers) it is harder to winnow the wheat from the chaff. A lot of what I've tried to read of modern fiction is often glib or else minimal to a fault. Therefore it was a most pleasant surprise to come across The Bloodstone Papers, the sixth title by the Anglo-Indian (his description) writer Glen Duncan. In this trans-generational and trans-continental novel, Owen, the protagonist, is an early forty-something writer-teacher-bartender who is trying to make sense of his own life and, via his writing project The Cheechee Papers, sense of his parents'.

Clashes between races and cultures drive the story, as does Owen's struggle with his own sense of futility in his life- and particularly with his relationship with women. His is the modern dilemma- a rejection of past values without any viable replacements. I'm not one to indulge in plot summaries, and although this book has two successful (and intertwined) plots going for it, the real worth of this book is in Duncan's writing, particularly his attention for detail. A sample:
Stairs, handrails, newels, benches, trestles, desks, kneelers, sills – Jesus and Mary Convent School has been Kate's introduction to things with a sad history of touch. The pathos of these objects is that they stay and you leave. Every girls' palms and fingertips and feet and knees, intimacy – then gone. You can feel sorry for a coat-hook, a doorknob, a bowl, a chair. When you sit on the stairs alone with your arms around your shins and your palms or calves on fire from the cane, the dark wood offers you its inarticulate sympathy, a moment you take, consume and forget but which it absorbs and will remember, uselessly, for ever. Some future girl will sit here and feel the same sympathy, years from now. You'll be a part of it, but she won't know and neither will you. That's the object's' sadness, that they connect the private moments of people who will always remain strangers.

Many thanks to Niranjana Iyer, and her excellent book review site, for steering me to this fine author.

By Professor Batty


Blogger Cellar Door said...

I'm definitely going to read this soon. That snippet was wonderful!

Anonymous Niranjana said...

Lovely quote. I'd thought of posting the line about "the frail nobility of houses at night...the timid sentience of coat-stands..." in my own post, but I went with the Darfur appeal. I think every page has a quotable line (or two). Shocking.

Blogger Professor Batty said...

I really enjoy it when an author stops the narrative for a rumination such as that paragraph.

Anonymous Caroline said...

I do want to read this. Sounds really great. Thanks.

Post a Comment