Thursday, March 15, 2007

the last book I read

Juggling by Barbara Trapido.

I listed Barbara Trapido's earlier book Brother Of The More Famous Jack as one of my recommended comic novels at the end of the Tibor Fischer review a couple of weeks ago, and then I found myself thinking: is this really a comic novel? I don't remember laughing out loud all that often....then I thought, well, the same applies to The World According To Garp, among others, and I would consider that a comic novel. Tricky, isn't it? And the Irving comparison is an apposite one for other reasons as well, stylistically speaking, probably more for this book than for BOTMFJ, as I like to call it. Massive picaresque extended family epics spanning a number of years, a mild obsession with rape and abortion (though she seems not to share Irving's other obsessions with bears and wrestling, which may be just as well), hugely engaging characters, and, in general, things working out OK in the end, at least for those you want it to work out OK for.

It turns out that this is a sequel to an earlier book, Temples Of Delight, but I am living proof (as I haven't read it) that there's no necessity to have read the earlier book to enjoy this one thoroughly.

The only thing that bugged me, and it's a small thing, is that one of the minor plot strands revolves around one of the more minor characters being able to levitate - this struck an incongruously self-conscious and unnecessary magic realist note, to me, which just jarred very slightly with the bizarre and outlandish but essentially plausible events in the rest of the book. Then again that whole magic realism thing bothers me - there's a levitation episode in Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years Of Solitude, in all other respects one of my favourite books, which annoyed me as well. It's the whole jarring interruption of plausible suspension of disbelief thing, like musicals. How are we meant to engage with the generalities of the plot if every so often the cast break into implausibly perfect and incongruously musically backed song at the drop of a hat? I mean, who does that in real life? Not me - at least, not often, anyway.

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