The Electric Michelangelo

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 April, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 April, 2005, 12:00am

The Electric Michelangelo

by Sarah Hall

Faber and Faber $124

Sarah Hall's second novel is a hybrid of poetry and prose. Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize last year, its sentences flow like song lyrics - in places they even rhyme. The Electric Michelangelo of the title is Cy Parks, born in the English seaside resort of Morecambe Bay at the beginning of the last century. He becomes an apprentice to the boorish but brilliant tattoo artist Eliot Riley. When Riley dies, Cy sails for the US, ending up in Coney Island, among the freak shows and white-knuckle rides. Hall's central theme is suffering. Since his childhood among the consumptive guests in his mother's boarding house, Cy has been surrounded by pain. Riley is attacked by nameless enemies who break his sensitive fingers with a hammer. But Hall's ugly issues are balanced by exquisite language.