Last year or so, I went to a library sale looking for something out of the ordinary, especially something with a sci-fi/ horror twist. I came out with a giant book called Behindlings. It was almost really good. But, this review is not of Behindlings; it is of another book by Nicola Barker, Clear.
Clear is set in London during the reign of mediocre spectacle that was magic’s dark n greasy heartthrob David Blaine, suspended in a giant glass box above the Thames, starving himself.
The main character is this guy (scroll down to the italics, and replace “new York” with “London” and throw in lots of hoo ha about “trainers”). The supporting characters are cardboard-y plot-proppers. The story is rom/com and the punctuation is all over the place, a characteristic shared by Behindlings, one that greatly interfered with my reading pleasure. What all this means is that the story was snappy, happy and a little sappy—basically a beach read for the Hornby set. This is not a bad thing, but it doesn’t make for memorable reading, as you can tell from this review.
One thing Barker does do here is pull together a bunch of wacky stuff and make it work together really well-- Houdini’s mystique (that guy is everywhere. Thanks Chabon.), cheesy celebrity bios and Kafka’s A Hunger Artist.
Reading the analysis of A Hunger Artist that Barker gives us through the combined mental efforts (and mouths) of her characters is a lot of fun. Kafka’s story is described in loving detail, and so thoughtfully fleshed out that I wanted to drop Clear and run out for a paperback classics fix. Barker does a great service to us booky folks by making A Hunger Artist seem so vital and exciting, even though she ties it to a modern-day bullshit storm- that method could even be the reason the shout-out stands out so much.
Even though I didn’t like Behindlings or Clear so much, Barker has still somehow gotten her burrs caught in my mohair. I want to read her other work. Any suggestions?