Monday, July 17, 2006

On Black Swan Green

When I'm not working on selling my soul to Wolfmother, I try to read. Sometimes a new book leaves me pissed off at the wasted time that could have been spent toe clipping. Other times and it almost never happens, I'm thrown for a loop, bracing myself in the chair and gasping in wonder. Lately I've been doing that over David Mitchell's brilliant, brilliant Black Swan Green.

Black Swan Green, to be simplistic, is the story of Brit boy Jason Taylor, thirteen years old who amid trying to hide both his stammer and erections with increasing failure, goes through thirteen months of among other things the Falkland Islands conflict, truly horrendous bullies, and the disintegration of his parent's marriage. Child protagonists work best not when they have little idea of what's going on but when they can see all the pieces yet nothing adds up. It's heartbreaking how Jace, for all his cleareyed perception cannot fathom why adults make the messes they do.

Black Swan Green has been called the "British Catcher in the Rye," but this couldn't be more misleading. This is not adult angst trying to fit into kids' shorts. Jace remains wonderfully, unforgettably a kid even after his first snog and feel up. Notice I call the kid Jace. That because, like the very best first person novels, Huck Finn, Great expectations, you fall in love with this kid from the very first line, which you'll simply have to buy to read. But why am I selling David Mitchell? He's been nominated for the Booker twice and will most likely win this year. Lord knows he doesn't need this struggling writer's help

He blurbed my friend T. Cooper's book (at least I think he did...not sure now) and last year when I ran into her I asked, "Do you ever get the feeling that David Mitchell is unnecessarily brilliant? That he got two of whatever it is we got one of? She laughed. After this book I'm convinced that I've been selling my soul to the wrong people.