by Mike McCormack
This year’s recently released Man Booker longlist yawned with all the right names. One longlisted title that is genuinely exciting is Solar Bones, by Irish novelist Mike
McCormack. Reviews almost inevitably draw comparisons with James Joyce and Samuel Beckett, partly because of his deployment of an evocative date: November 2, All Souls’ Day, the Day of the Dead; but also partly thanks to formal ambition – McCormack unravels a single, all-encompassing sentence à la Beckett’s The Unnamable (1953).
Both the date and continuous monologue rock the foundations propping up McCormack’s hero, Marcus Conway. An engineer by trade, he is keen to understand how things work and collapse: families, cities, countries and, importantly for the story, bridges. In this, All Souls’ Day is suggestive: the day, according to folklore, when the membrane between life and death grows gossamer thin.
McCormack’s use of unpunctuated white space erodes the divisions between love and politics, individuals and a nation, reality and representation. There’s no mistaking Solar Bones’ depth – a challenging novel that rewards attention, a work of beauty unafraid of the darkest corners of existence.
I hope it’s shortlisted.