Friday, 4 February 2011
Darkmans is long, but it doesn't feel it. It's flippant and compellingly written, and it has it's own grammer -- brackets and page breaks that keep the narration interrupting itself over and over -- which add so much white space that the pages turn twice as quick as normal.
And the size of the cast is important when you're stepping past a quarter-million words. Darkmans gets the balance just right; there's enough people that you never dwell long enough on anyone to wonder whether they can carry you through the next half-ton of pages; but there's not so many that you forget them, get confused, or struggle to see the connections.
Darkmans is certainly enjoyable. I knew it was going to be, after every page I picked at random (when bored in my bookshop) made me giggle. I was hoping, though, that it would turn out to be more.
Here's some background. The last book I read of this length was Infinite Jest. If you've been there, you know. It was hugely entertaining, I raced through it, I loved it, and it frustrated the hell out of me. The plot starts on the page the book ends. It's a nothing book. And yes, I know, that's the point. But I wanted it -- and now, by proxy, I want Darkmans -- to be a something book.
But it's not. There's certainly something more to it than a snappy way with word-hilarity. There's a twisted kind of poetry to it, the tripping, bending, unstable explosion of language; and there's such a huge mystery behind the whole thing, even if we never get a sniff of the 'solution.'
It's all about endings, I think. Nothing books -- entertaining, intriguing, infuriating -- don't have endings. I find it hard to imagine how Darkmans could have 'ended' without ripping me off or slightly cheapening itself (but imagining a way out of it should be the author's job, anyway).
I don't want to criticise a book I enjoyed so much, but I'm hungry for a great book. I want the 800+ pages, the massive ambition and wit and intelligence, and then I want it to get better, and better, and then blow my mind. I want 800+ pages of excellent middle, and then I want an ending that lives up to it.
And it is a good thing, that after the thickest book I've read in years, I'm wanting more. It's two parts Darkmans-awesome, one part greedy-bastard.