The Worm and the Bird by Coralie Bickford-SmithCoralie Bickford-Smith makes a simple tale feel more grandiose through her art. The illustrations are beautiful and impactful; smart composition and effective colour palettes punctuate each beat of the story. But, ultimately, the impact of the story's words is fleeting. The message is clear enough, it just didn’t resonate, at least not for me. Others may get more, but I found it a far more interesting art book than a good read.
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene WeckerThe next installment in my 'The ... and the ...' reading list was The Golem and the Jinni. :p
This is a vivid journey through 1900s New York, focusing on areas of the city I’d never really considered, and more intriguing because of it. Told from the viewpoint of various immigrants, it is a deeply human tale, despite the eponymous main duo being anything but.
As the book’s outsiders search for their place in New York, at once enthralled and alienated by the cocktail of cultures and people, Helene Wecker does an excellent job of wrapping the reader up in New York’s complexity and vastness. The city is as important a character as anyone else here, the core that connects the various stories together.
Much of the journey is great, but the final approach to the destination is less fulfilling. This is a weighty book, around 650 pages long, yet the climax arrives in a rush and is all too brief and predictable. Still an interesting read and I'll probably check out the follow-up, due out later this year.
And the Ass Saw the Angel by Nick CaveNick Cave has never been afraid to roll in the grime. His lyrics often feel dirty and nasty in their blunt honesty and subject matter – truth and insight are spiced with horror and venom as he lays himself bare and asks us to do the same.
As with his music, his first novel challenges the reader, weaving a fable about people and a world that is bizarre, yet familiar enough to feel utterly uncomfortable.
The twisted tale of Euchrid Eucrow begins with a broken-bottle-caesarean and gets bleaker. The lyrical flow of the narrative is a grotesque and often rambling butcher’s slab of alienation and unpleasantness. The setting, the valley of Ukulore, is a place of hardship, cruelty and foulness, the characters (perhaps it would be more apt to say caricatures) are driven by ill-will and intolerance, snuffing out any hint of goodness or reprieve as fast as they can. Even the environment feels deadly and the creatures within, human or not, are all prey.
Yet, despite being a brutal read, the tale is compelling. For each moment when the prose feels naïve there are others where it is so honest and intriguing, so intense and visceral, that I just wanted to feast on it.
But, yes, this is a challenging book, one that almost certainly suffers from its beginnings as a screenplay and an author more used to lyrics than novels. And one made more intense by the relentless grime and questions of humanity at its heart. At times it made me feel like I needed to take a shower, to clean the dirt of this gothic tale from myself. Maybe that’s ok!