I’m quite enjoying The Raw Shark Texts at the moment (probably because so far it seems very indebted to Haruki Murakami, one of my favourite writers), but the cover (of the UK version, obviously) makes me laugh:
With its Photoshop montage of models leaping, staring thoughtfully and kissing, all exploding out of the Rorschach blot containing the title at the centre, and with the “First things first, stay calm” tagline and the “blockbuster waiting to be made” quote from Toby Litt on the spine, it’s as though the publishers are trying to push it as - well, as a blockbuster; a thriller that might appeal to readers of Grisham et al. And yet by page 50 the protagonist finds himself in danger from a “conceptual fish”.
Don’t get me wrong, I quite like the idea of a conceptual fish (would that be a conceptual conceptual fish?), it’s just that I’m not quite sure this cover is exactly being honest to the casual book browser (especially seeing as the blurb doesn’t mention said conceptual fish, but rather vaguely sidesteps the issue by instead vaguely referring to it as a “dark force that threatens [the protagonist’s] life”.
It’s definitely good fun, though. Although I have to say that if I ever wrote sentences such as, “the word coming in a tangle-breated shudder”, “the idea of the floor, the concept, feel, shape of the words in my head all broke apart on impact with a splash of sensations of textures and pattern memories and letters and phonetic sounds spraying out”, “this was everything, at the heart of everything this was a simple, perfect just is”, or “that mean naughty sexy cruel little smile might be the single and only perfect thing that’s ever existed”… Well, if I ever wrote sentences such as those and a number of other similar ones, my other half would give me a very odd look indeed and call me a w***er. But then that’s what is so hard to emulate about Murakami - Murakami can somehow describe a girl’s ears as being entirely perfect, have his protagonist speak to a ghost or live half in a world with unicorns, without seeming mawkish or pretentious. Steven Hall certainly manages all of this better than, say, David Mitchell in the dreadful chapters in Number9Dream dealing with “Goatwriter” (a blatant, uh, “homage” to Murakami’s “sheepman”). Hall’s verbal tick of creating compound, hyphenated words gets a little irritating rather quickly, but all such criticisms are rather mean, because there’s also some very fine writing in there and I ploughed through the first few chapters yesterday because it’s so enjoyable thus far. (In fact, I would say I’m only criticising at all because it is generally so good, so the lapses into pretentiousness stick out because normally he keeps things fairly matter-of-fact.) Of course, I’ve also noted that he’s younger than me (as are many writers nowadays, dammit), so that makes me hate him.
So thanks again for the recommendation!
All the best,