3 terrific books – one sees all
The Desmond Elliott Prize will be announced tomorrow. With no contender from our own stable this year, we’ve been able to enjoy an impartial wander through the literary paddock. To push a metaphor too far, one dark horse has ridden away with us.
I’m not going to do a full review here. There are enough out there and, besides, I don’t think I can do the book justice. Someone whose own world has been chaffed, grazed or full-on immersed in the merciless life fat-fryer, as this central heroine’s, is the more qualified candidate. Instead, here’s a bullet list as to why everyone should read Jenni Fagan’s ‘The Panopticon’:
- The writing: so vivid, so visceral and unrepentent – like a bootstrapped Scottish army erupting from an acid-soaked gattling gun – yet with moments of aching, poignant lucidity. Wherever you’re from, Jenni paints an ink-blood-bile world you’ll be richer for visiting.
- The boldness: prose, themes, characters – no prisoners, ta. Face the beast’s underbelly, our ‘free society’s’ filthy diaper-wrapped suppurating arse, lean in and inhale as it pins you to, then scrapes you along the wall. This book wakes us from our ‘Wifi & latte’-like trance.
- Anais Hendricks. ‘Nuff said. But I’ll say it again: Anais Hendricks.
- How we treat kids: as parents; as care-workers; legal officers; teachers; fellow kids; relatives; foster parents and as strangers. Everything that’s wrong with our world as adults started with an adult failing a child. The Panopticon reminds us of this important fact.
- Speaking of facts – non-fiction, we share facts, observations, records, opinions, knowledge. Fiction: we share stories, which means we share experience through a faculty other than simply the intellect. If we’re lucky, we’re graced with insight and understanding. Into others – and the obvious. Here, we’re very, very lucky. Fact.
- Anais Hendricks – anyone?
- ‘The experiment’: ’cause this is everyone’s question, once you’re stripped and crunched and naked. Isn’t it? Keep stripping.
- If you finish this book without wanting to shout for Anais, without wishing to send a prayer or quantum truckload of solace to every kid you’ve just met and, moreover, to their real counterparts out there – start digging. When you find your heart again, beat it till it does.
Good luck all 3 tomorrow. Of course the prize is already in the writing. Thank you DEP for introducing us to some soul-scrambling literature. We’ll see you next year, for a carnival.
Thank you, Jenni – can’t wait to see what comes next. Begin today.