Monday, 28 March 2016

MISLAID by Nell Zink

This is a book with a lot of opinions, and I really enjoyed it. Here's one, on some girlie magazines the main character finds at a dump: "The cover price was high, suggesting a wealthy man, but pornography is a classic payday splurge of the shiftless." MISLAID is full of declarations of this kind, suggesting someone who has a lot to say, and, thankfully, the desire to say it in an entertaining way.

I understand Zink only published her first novel at fifty, and this is her second, and you certainly get the impression of someone who is writing what they damn well please. Having said that, I'm always doubtful of these outsiders, novelists who appear fully formed from the forehead of Zeus. They always have a drawer full of novels they've been working on for years and a great friendship with whoever literary superstar they met at AA. I won't even google Nell Zink, but I guarantee it's true. There's virtually no actual outsiders in the fine arts; you have to go to professions with money for that, such as banking.

The novel is about a woman who leaves her husband and son behind and flees with her daughter to live in poverty. Sounds grim, but it's really very entertaining. Here's the mother, Meg, with the small daughter, Karen: "Meg’s first paycheck materialized as she drove to the grocery store early one morning. She saw a cardboard box on the shoulder. She stopped, because a box like that nearly always contains kittens. Not worth money, but tell that to Karen. Karen worshipped kittens as gods."

We have a couple of issues with plot resolution at the end, it's all a bit pat - "The good ended happily, the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means" as Wilde has it - but endings are always hard. Great book overall.

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