Falling or flying
The writings and the doings of the worryingly prolific Jack Ross ('thirteen launches and four books last year - maaate') sometimes threaten to dominate this blog, so I think I understand some of the frustrations that Jack's older brother Ken must endure. Ken, who lives in Edinburgh and can play Chopin very fast on the piano, has been featured before on this blog as the proprietor of Crywolf Books, but he's a scribbler as well as a publisher, and his first novel Falling Through the Architect was published by brief books late in 2005. Perhaps because that brattish little brother is so intent on hogging the limelight, Ken's book hasn't yet received the attention it deserves.
Now, though, Bill Direen has written a warm review of Ken's book for the forthcoming 36th issue of brief, in the hope of making more Kiwi writers aware of the audacious prose of their northern kinsman. Since brief is a determinedly offline publication, I've gotten permission to prepublish the review here. If you like the sound of Falling Through the Architect, you can order the book through Crywolf.
Falling Through the Architect, by K.M Ross. Auckland, 2005. Available through The Writers Group, PO Box 102 Waimauku West Auckland, or online from Crywolf Books http://www.crywolfbooks.org. 30 dollars (NZ), 9.99 pounds (UK). Comments by William Direen.
As printed characters rely for meaning on the space immediately around them and upon other characters among which they exist in a work, Falling through the Architect realises its central narrative by means of oscillating but complementary narratives (or “anti-narratives”).
We are continually reminded of the novel’s textual nature: the ‘story’ in plain font is counterpoised by an unidentified voice in bold font which, as the boldness of the font accentuates, reads as a kind of tirade.
A "plain" narrative depicts the intersecting life-stories of several persons, into whose minds the writer enters at will. There is an accessible realism here. This is a story full of hard social facts, which relies on a careful geography inseparable from its erotic subterfuge. On the social front alone it is a valuable reflection of current Edinburgh mores and language usage. The “Scottishness” of the terrain is neatly blurred by the city's multi-cultural element, while the diversity of its inhabitants is unified by the acquired “Scots” of some of their dialogue (and the author’s deftness in this area). The street-plans and the plans of the interiors are particularly detailed and necessarily so, since, as we read, as we become more intimate with the text, physical reality becomes less physical! The eroticism, overtly heterosexual, ranges from battering roughness to mysterious finger signals or catastrophic onanism, and is present at various levels, sometimes violent.
The "bold" tirade draws on many sources — mystical, lyrical and musical. Its nature was not, at first, clear to me. I wanted to know how the alternating sequences related to each other, and what the ultimate design of the author was. Soon, questioning itself began to take on the form of an answer. After trying multiple-choice (‘Is the tirade the voice of more than one character, of a combined god-author character, or of a single fictional multi-facetted entity or design?’) I tried letting go all preconceived notions of ‘voice’ and allowed the tirade to issue from a sort of Negativeland, an alternative time-space continuum which, like the white between the ink of the text, rubs up against everyday lives, the hard-copy of our primary stories. And then...?
Then K.M Ross really began to fly!
Footnote: and if there wasn't enough scribbling going on in the clan already, Jack and Ken's mother June, who was one of the North Shore's best-known GPs for three decades, has written a fine and frightening article about the depleted uranium contamination which has been one of the numerous fringe benefits of the US liberation of Iraq.