The Silkworm (Robert Galbraith, 2014)

The Silkworm: rainy-day fiction.

The Silkworm: rainy-day fiction.

Time off from The Curing of a Bibliomaniac is allowed, because my friend Sturdy lent me this alluring paperback and anything by J. K . Rowling, that is, Robert Galbraith, is essential reading.

 

 

My history as a crime junkie dates back to a time after I finished my uni degree, filled with postmodern literature, ye olde English literature, film theory, poetry, Shakespeare, Shakespeare in film, Australian fiction, Australian fiction in film, etc, etc.

This stuff was wicked, but it bruised my brain so severely that by the time I graduated I shuddered at the very sight of a Thinky Book.

Enter crime. The compulsive nature of crime serials by excellent authors such as Val McDermid, Colin Dexter, Lee Child, Ian Rankin and Frances Fyfield, to name but a few, served as a panacea to my aching soul, serving up quality reading material in a structure I could rely upon to be relatively unchanging.

Not THAT proud of my matching Colin Dexter collection, jeez.

Not THAT proud of my matching Colin Dexter collection, jeez.

 

Like a fool, I kept buying all kinds of books as well as these, hence large, slightly bibliomaniacal (is this a word?) collection of the unread. And the need for a cure. Hehehe. Searching for a cure for the unread. Get it?

 

 

But I digress. Suffice it to say that when a friend delivers a succulent new morsel such as this, I drop everything and snuggle down and say goodbye to society for a couple of days.

Silkworm did not disappoint – Galbraith’s writing is so deft and perceptive you can’t help but break into delighted smiles as you read, nodding in recognition, and sometimes even a giggle at some particularly incisive phrase.

The evocation of London is such that it makes you long to see it in front of you as Strike (central character, ex-soldier-turned private detective) does. Well, at least it was raining in Perth.

This is the second novel in the series, the first being The Cuckoo’s Calling, and as Sturdy says, there is some excellent character development in this instalment, with the promise of more to come.

The same thing struck me about Silkworm as The Cuckoo’s Calling: Galbraith inhabits diverse worlds with remarkable comfort, moving from poverty to riches, and detailing industries from fashion to publishing as though born to them.

This is a joy to read, a traditional, engrossing detective novel with everything it needs to be among the best in the genre: depth of character, tight plot, mood and style, with some deliciously shivery moments. It deserves to have real money spent on a physical book that takes up real space in your house.

If you’ll indulge me in a cringey metaphor, it’s more satisfying than a good meal, because generally after good food you feel a bit overfull and regretful, whereas this is a perfect portion that leaves you wanting more.

After continuing with How to Cure a Bibliomaniac, of course.

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The Curing of a Bibliomaniac Part 3: Flesh and Blood (Michael Cunningham,1995)

Flesh and Blood - Michael Cunningham

Flesh and Blood – Michael Cunningham

Books read: 3/26. Weeks remaining: 48

 

Her name was Magda, like one of the Gabor sisters. Constantine lost himself in her the way a coin gets lost through a storm drain. With Magda he felt himself falling and then shining up from the darkness, a prize, hidden and hard to reach.   

 

 

 

 

Michael Cunningham is the crazy-gifted author of The Hours, which the 2002 movie was based on, and Specimen Days, the altogether more peculiar but stunning novel that I read at university, no doubt for a postmodern literature unit.

At the risk of devolving into boring uni-speak, I would call this thoroughly modernist and thus very different from The Hours and Specimen Days, though I picked it up based on how good these were.

And possibly because I have a fetish for these worn orange Penguin spines.

And possibly because I have a fetish for these worn orange Penguin spines.

This is closer in style to Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections, though it came out six years earlier… a fat, glorious American family saga to curl up with, spanning the multiple generations that live between 1935 and 2035.

Constantine, a Greek migrant, works to achieve the American dream for his wife, Mary, and three children; but one by one, they reject everything he has tried to give.

What had happened? Someone like Billy, a man so well provided for, should be devouring the world. He should be striding through his life, able as a horse, smart as a wolf, squeezing the rich meek blood out of women’s hearts. When Mary’d given birth to a son, Constantine had imagined himself taking handfuls of the future and stuffing them in his mouth. Daughters, even the best of them, disappeared into the lives of men. But a son carried you. His pleasures included you; you lived in your skin and you lived in his as well.

Constantine and Mary do not understand their children or the pathways they choose. Susan, Billy and Zoe struggle to leave their never-quite-happy family home behind, but cannot altogether succeed. They and their own children carry its burdens everywhere they go.

She looked at the man in the wig, who stood like a crazy goddess of propriety and delusion, his sharp face jutting out from between the silver curtains of his wig and piles of colored bracelets winking on his arms. Zoe thought of Alice on the far side of the looking glass, an innocent and sensible girl. What Alice brought to Wonderland was her calm good sense, her Englishness. She saved herself by being correct, by listening seriously to talking animals and crazy people.

The 100-year structure gives a steady, driving force that anchors the dreamy delicacy of Cunningham’s prose, the sense of meanings breathing beneath ordinary things. He articulates the consciousness of all human beings, lonely inside their own skins and experiencing the world in ways they cannot describe to others:

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Cunningham’s is the kind of writing I love most, the kind that must send would-be novelists into fits of despair and self-doubt. This is both a compulsive read and an exhilarating one: it’s soul-food.

It will take some self-control to move on to D, without just picking up the next Cunningham book on my shelf (A Home at the End of the World, in case you were wondering). But… what’s this? My friend Sturdy has just dropped off Robert Galbraith’s Silkworm! Perhaps an interlude is in order…

Keep it or let it go? Going to keep this one, and try to foist it upon loved ones one by one.

More on The Curing of a Bibliomaniac here.