24 February 2017.
Solar Bones, Mike McCormack.
Pub. Tramp Press
The title Solar Bones made me want to read this before I knew anything about it. The excellent reviews it received strengthened that intention. It lived up to my expectations and gave me much to think about. Some aspects seemed to run in parallel with my own soon-to-be-published book Twice the Speed of Dark. The main reason for this I am unwilling to present, as in the book we don’t discover it until the last few pages. Though the back cover blurb weighs in from the off, rendering my anti-spoiler decorum somewhat old-maid-ish and unnecessarily coy. In spite of that, though I write as an enthusiast rather than as a bona-fide reviewer, I’ll forego the self-indulgent pleasure of discussing why the connection occurs to me, but next time someone asks me what writing I see as similar to my own, I will have this fine example and will secretly hope to gain a little in the reflected lustre of this beautiful book.
The whole is one long sentence, one long series of shifting recollection, the gathered reflections of a man sitting in his home. Sometimes it is this home, the actual building, that seems the most solid thing in the text; a living thing providing a structure for the gentle, absorbing actions of his recollected family life. At other points too, the protagonist, being an engineer, the worthiness, the durability or otherwise of buildings crops up, as if they stand in for the bones of the title.
The main character experiences a mixture of elevation and inadequacy as he wrestles with a complex mix of love, perplexity and awe while he waits for his family to come back to the house, back to the kitchen where he waits, uncertainly, for them. It is in this ordinariness that a grand beauty appears. And yet, threaded through is a glimmer of sickness, danger, fault. I put the book down with a sense that the beauty had triumphed but the fault was always there, undeniable.
I began to interpret as an appeal that
I should meet it with an improved version of myself or at least work to make myself worthy of this new, pristine version of my young wife, a demand I took so seriously that I sat down and gave myself over to it with sober concentration, surveying my soul in the light of Mairead’s pregnancy which showed on her as if she were illumined from within and which I read now as nothing less than a sacred injunction that I should look to my own soul and rid it of all those slurs and injuries which had accrued to it over my lifetime, all this in preparation for our child, Mairead so radiant that
something petty in me felt sorely jilted by her elevated condition which, day by day, appeared like a higher, more refined evolutionary stage and which inspired so little in me save this wish to turn inward and inventory my own soul, a self-defeating instinct,