Praise for Declan Burke: “Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Absolute Zero Cool: ‘Serious As The World Series’, Apparently

It’s been a very strange week, folks. The good vibes for ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL have continued to seep in through the ether, with which I am well pleased, as you can imagine, particularly as the Irish Times and Irish Independent were so generous in their reviews last weekend (sample AZC cover blushing furiously, right). It’s also gratifying to see a book that took so long to get published, mainly because many publishers made the decision that readers wouldn’t ‘get’ the story, receive so many early positive reviews.
  For my part, I don’t ‘get’ why so many publishers felt that readers wouldn’t ‘get’ the book. AZC is a pretty straightforward story, a black comedy about a hospital porter who decides to blow up ‘his’ hospital. Yes, it pokes a bit of fun at literary conventions of all stripes, but that class of a malarkey is almost as old as the novel itself, the classic example being our old friend Tristram Shandy, the first volumes of which were first published in 1759. Yes, it’s fair to say, as Rob Kitchin does in his review over at The Blue House, that ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL won’t be for everybody; but then, what book is? But the assumption made by publishers that readers aren’t interested / smart enough / self-challenging enough to read anything that doesn’t conform to exactly everything they’ve read in the past is to my mind lazy at best, and prejudiced at worst.
  Anyway, on to the reviews that have popped up on the interweb in the last few days. First up, the aforementioned Rob Kitchin over at The View From the Blue House, a fine author himself and a reader who has proved himself a quietly astute observer of the crime novel over the last couple of years*. Quoth Rob:
“Satire and high art meets screwball noir … The result is a very clever book, that’s at once fun and challenging. The prose and plot has been honed within an inch of its life, full of lovely turns of phrases, philosophical depth and keen observational insight … ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL takes the crime genre and its many tropes and stereotypes and throws them out the window. It’s a genuinely unique tale … Five stars all the way for me.” - Rob Kitchin
  Meanwhile, Malcolm Berry, also an author, has this to say at his interweb lair The Foulks Rebellion:
“My point is, there is room for that, and there is increasing room for super-consciousness, post-rational literature -- particularly in our post-rational world -- along the lines of Woyzeck, Bertold Brecht, Robbe-Grillet, Samuel Beckett, and others. Most recently, Declan Burke’s ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL. My kind of book. Maybe it could be called Gonzolit. Serious as the World Series, clean as Van Gogh’s ear surgery, worthy of our times.” - Malcolm Berry
  ‘Serious as the World Series’? Now that’s what I call a cover blurb …
  Finally, fellow Irish scribe Frank McGrath was good enough to post his review of AZC to the Kindle page, where the gist of his spake runs thusly:
“This is not a ‘crime’ book in the normal sense of having a detective, a killer and an easy to follow plot. It is a stunningly beautiful and achingly funny work which probes the type of existential questions raised by works like NOTES FROM THE UNDERGROUND and CRIME AND PUNISHMENT by Dostoyevsky, and works by Sartre, Camus (THE PLAGUE), Kafka, and Ireland’s Beckett and Flann O’Brien.” - Frank McGrath
  Now, those three gentlemen bandy around some fairly heavyweight names, but the one word which keeps popping up, and which I’m most delighted about is, ‘fun’. Because you can be as serious as you want about writing books, in terms of the craft and whatever it is you have to say, but ultimately, if a book isn’t enjoyable to read, what’s the point? Life’s too short to spend grinding through some eminently worthy but excruciating dull text.
  Finally, a quick reminder to any Belfast readers out there that I’ll be appearing at No Alibis this evening, at 6pm, in the company of Adrian McKinty. Being honest, and unless I win the lottery between now and 6pm, the double-hander with McKinty will be the highlight of my week. See you there …
  * Well, I would say that, wouldn’t I?

UPDATE: Frank McGrath’s kind words appear to have disappeared from the Amazon page since yesterday. Um, Frank? Any ideas? Anyone?


@frankamcgrath said...

Here is my full review, which for some reason is delayed by the Amazon gremlins:

This is not a "crime" book in the normal sense of having a detective, a killer and an an easy to follow plot. It is a stunningly beautiful and achingly funny work which probes the type of existential questions raised by works like "Notes from Underground" and "Crime and Punishment" by Dostoyevsky, and works by Sartre, Camus ("The Plague"), Kafka, and Ireland's Beckett and Flann O'Brien.
It is an anti-novel, in that the connecting thread is the author's tone and voice, which produces such gems as "His face is deelpy lined, but softly, so he resembles a post-coital Beckett." and a remark that could have been made of any of Beckett's characters: "If there's one thing women love more than talking, it's talking about talking." (Think "Happy Days." - "Debs adds a few more strokes of blusher to the masterpiece-in-progress that is her perception of herself")
The basic storyline centres around Billy Karlsson and his plan to blow up a hospital. He provides the same type of justifications as Raskolnikov provides for killing the old woman in "Crime and Punishment" - the type of justifications used by the Nazis and a certain Norwegian currently in the news. The author dialogues with Karlsson, probing his rationale, and in so doing probes the rationale of all of society's outcasts and "rebels."
This is classic and be read in a hundred years' time, when many contemporary bestsellers are long forgotten. Read it!

Nigel said...

I'm glad the reviews are all so encouaging, Dec. It takles a long time to get a book out there,m so sit back and ride the wave.
See you at No Alibis tonight.
Cheers, Nigel

Caroline said...

Hi Declan, Frank's review is on Amazon this morning when I checked. It's further down the page now due to all the reviews that are flooding the page...not a bad complaint! Caroline