March 4, 2005

Baby, baby, baby, baby, baby

Book #14 of 2005
Not the End of the World, by Kate Atkinson
When I sit down with a book by an author I know, expecting a good solid novel, I feel slightly resentful to find myself faced with short stories instead. I’m not into short stories much, but despite myself, I usually do enjoy them as an art form (they just seem more studied, remembering Doris Lessing at O-Level). In this case, it was well worth persisting, because the stories are weaved together with a transtextual thread of characters and events who appear or are cross-referenced later in the book.
Not the end of the world is sprinkled with factual details and classical references that occasionally seem designed to demonstrate the author’s erudition (she should write a weblog); sometimes, they demonstrate only her tenacious research skills, by having the teenager listening to just the right heavy metal songs to illustrate how out of tune their world is.
The stories are dark and surreal, buoyed up by all that intricate scene-setting detail, and decorated with some lovely metaphors, like a bed that was on fire with foreign sunlight. Kate Atkinson is a reliably entertaining author, but I would recommend reading this book twice in a row to get the best out of it.


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