Wednesday, August 24, 2011

review : yellowcake

yellowcake, margo lanagan (allen & unwin)

forgive me.

i read this a long time ago and meant to write about it straight away, but the stories cased within this beautiful cover are not simple tales to read and flippantly comment on. they are convoluted and mysterious, beautiful and twistedly grotesque.

heads remains looming in my mind, the story in which a golden haired boy portrays innocence and busyness and a sense of purpose in a horrible world where something awful has happened and he's not sure why.

also ferryman, which broke my heart with its light and loving banter between father and daughter ("scowling sarah") combined with the grief and "the ragged crying all around us in the hole, that is me; these two are silent in their cleaving. i lean and howl against them and at last they take me in, lock me in with them."

a honest day's work is truly a stand-out as well, in which a townful of labourers working to butcher and make use of a beast washed up in their harbour, as told from the perspective of a young boy with a crippled foot participating in his first day of work. watching for the 'sizable' 'incoming' and the careful work they do, slicing here and oh watch out, a nerve has made the arm jolt. no - the beast awakens. when it stands, tries to put its skull back on - at once revolting and most certainly fascinating. and the guilt and the shame is evident, at the way they carry out their work, hardly considering the life form that once was. "it could be mistaken for a person, this one." fracks. i have shivers, and a sinking feeling in my stomach, even now.

and if i may borrow from my friend clare, whose review in bookseller+publisher was just...just so.

she wrote: each piece in this collection is truly elegant, and each possesses a haunting, often unnerving quality that leaves the innards of the story lingering long after the last page is turned...lanagan's masterful use of language continues to astonish, with turns of phrase so perfect that you want to roll them around in your mouth until all the goodness is sucked from them and her ability to create powerful stories that demand serious contemplation is unrivalled. the often dark subject matter varies greatly, as each story is wildly different, but the skill with which it is handled is never compromised. yellowcake should eked out over time, each story to be savoured.

what is truly impressive - and is evident in all of margo's work - is the way she can create a world, a community in her stories, no matter how short. she breathes life into her characters and her settings, using language in such a wonderful and inventive way. she explores the physical in a way not many writers do and every story will just blow you away. mindfuck, yes. comfortable, not always.

inspiring and overwhelming? yes, always.

read this review by raych of books i done read.

go and read margo's other books: white time, black juice, red spikes, tender morsels and the upcoming "selkie novel" now officially named sea hearts.
you can also read her blog: among amid while.
many thanks to margo for sending me a copy.


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