Wednesday, April 25, 2007

#28 - The Raw Shark Texts

Last night I had the pleasure of attending the launch party for Steven Hall's The Raw Shark Texts. Delightful and charming, Hall speaks with a lovely British accent that sounds Manchester-ish, which always reminds me of Coronation Street. However, I could be getting that totally wrong and making all kinds of assumptions. It's just that he sounds a lot like my old neighbour, Andrew, whose family was from Manchester. Soooo. His speaking voice reminded me of Andrew, which was lovely considering I haven't seen and/or thought of him in a while. It's nice to miss people in that way, without even realizing it, like an echo that sort of bounces off your memory but only when you're within hearing distance.


Before Hall read a very short excerpt (just the first page) he mentioned that he had set out to write a book that had elements for all readers: a love story if that's what you like, a thriller for those readers, maybe a dash of mystery for that crew. All in all, it's quite a mash-up of styles all sewn together with his lovely, literary voice. He also laughed because he said that in every country, except Canada, the book starts off on the first page. Ah, but here, we got to start with the Aquarium fragment (which you can read here if you can figure out the puzzle), which was bound into lovely looking booklets for the party.

I read a review in the Torontoist yesterday that mentioned that maybe the in some ways marketing of the book 'overshadows the text itself.' And it's true that rarely have I seen so much buzz about a book, from packages being stolen off of porches to conceptual shark boats being built in amazing art spaces, alongside the wiki, the puzzle, and high profile bloggers, there's an incredible force of nature surrounding The Raw Shark Texts, and that it's a first novel makes it even more exciting.

But, I'd have to disagree that it takes away from the book at all, I think, because so much of it comes from the spirit of The Raw Shark Texts itself. Every single thing that I've seen and/or read about the novel feels very much akin to the text, which is a hard thing to achieve in this cold, cruel market-infested world.

When Eric Sanderson wakes up one morning with no idea who or where he is, he finds a note from the "First Eric Sanderson," telling him to contact Dr. Randle, who will help him with his condition. From that very first moment, a story of massive proportions, both imaginary and real, is set into motion.

As Second Eric Sanderson (SEC) bumbles through life suffering from a dissociate fugue and attempts to piece his life back together, he discovers he's being chased by a Ludovician, a conceptual shark that feeds on human knowledge. While he races for his life outside of the jaws of the shark, SEC finds fragments of his former self, when he was in love with a beautiful girl who died tragically while they were on vacation in the Greek islands.

See, something for everyone.

Yet, Hall's ability to not only manage the wild and even outrageously imaginative parts of the book remains perfectly clear throughout the novel. Not only is it believable, but it's real, even if the story is perfectly unreal: there's great emotions, high chases, wickedly fun references and post-post references, and lots of fascinating characters, not the least of which is a very adventurous cat named Ian. In addition to the great writing, there are visual aspects of the book (flip shark pages included) that don't seem incongruous and/or like devices. On the whole, The Raw Shark Texts manages to be literary, adventurous, sweet and fascinating all at the same time.

And it's so not the kind of book I would normally read, but I'm very glad I did, even if now before I go to bed, I try not to imagine a conceptual shark under there swimming around in my dreams, eating up my memories, and spitting them back out again.

1 comment:

Tim Frederick said...

Finished it on a business trip this week. Fantastic.

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