30 August 2006


In my occasional moments of spare time I've been reading and savoring Laird Hunt's new novel, The Exquisite, which is bizarre and complex and beautiful and an awful lot of fun so far (I'm 60 pages in). I keep noting interesting paragraphs to quote, so thought I would share one before too many more accumulate:
O.K., I said. I told them about a scenario I had often entertained as a kid, involving a Jules Verne-type submarine that would take me to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, where I would disembark, in a special suit, and enter a grotto then a tunnel down which I would spelunk for miles, overcoming, as I went, multiple traps and numerous multilimbed ferocious-toothed guards, then pick or force the lock on the small iron door behind which my father was supposed to be kept, only he wasn't there. This would mean I would have to find my father's captor, force him, through awful means, including chopping one of his legs off, to tell me where my father was. He would tell me that my father was now being held on an off-world colony whose location was the highest secret. He would die laughing in my face. I would spend the next several years conducting an investigation that would take me all over the world in search of the secret to my father's whereabouts. I would finally get the answer in a bar made out of a shipping container on one of Jupiter's nastier moons. When I found my father, in a detention tower near the Sea of Tranquility on the moon, he would put his hand on my cheek and say, I knew you would find me, boy. I would pick him up in my arms. At that moment, my father's captor, mysteriously resurrected, would spring the trap he had been waiting to spring for years, locking both my father and me up together in the tower's chamber. There we would sit together and wait with no hope of rescue for certain death. Some dark, end-of-the-galaxy sci-fi music would play in the background. We would be happy though. Together, with our arms wrapped around each other's shoulders or playing some game like Scrabble.
Poets & Writers has posted a longer excerpt if you want more. And Bud Parr has read the book faster than I and posted his thoughts. My fear, as with any book I become fond of early on, is that the rest won't live up to the promise of the beginning, but I'm betting this one does, because what I've read up to now is so skilled and assured that even if the rest falls apart, it is likely to fall apart in interesting and surprising ways. It's a joy to read a novel that is full of weirdness and hints of philosophy and erudite allusions and still so pleasurable on the basic narrative level -- it's really a page-turner in its own bizarre way. (So far, so far. Mustn't get the hopes up too high...)