Last week, I interviewed Craig Silvey, and this week, I thought, to keep the momentum going, I’d treat you all to an excerpt from Craig’s latest, Jasper Jones. To me, books (and films and TV programmes) fall into two distinct categories. Some, I merely consume. In other words: they’re not all that amazing. But others… when I put them down, I’m inspired. It’s like they’ve lit a spark in me and I’m compelled to write something fantastic. Their brilliance is almost contagious. I mean, sure, I’m a creative type, and someone may be affected by the same book in a different way, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are affecting.
Jasper Jones is one of those books. Powerful, well-written, engrossing. Here’s a sample taken from the book’s opening:
Jasper Jones has come to my window.
I don’t know why, but he has. Maybe he’s in trouble. Maybe he doesn’t have anywhere else to go.
Either way, he’s just frightened the living shit out of me.
This is the hottest summer I can remember, and the thick heat seems to seep in and keep in my sleepout. It’s like the earth’s core in here. The only relief comes from the cooler air that creeps in between the slim slats of my single window. It’s near impossible to sleep, so I’ve spent most of my nights reading by the light of my kerosene lamp.
Tonight was no different. And when Jasper Jones rapped my louvres abruptly with his knuckle and hissed my name, I leapt from my bed, spilling my copy of Pudd’nhead Wilson.
I knelt like a sprinter, alert and fearful.
‘Who is it?’
‘Charlie! Come out here!’
‘Who is it?’
‘Jasper. Jasper!’ and he pressed his face right up into the light.
His eyes green and wild. I squinted.
‘What? Really? What is it?’
‘I need your help. Just come out here and I’ll explain,’ he whispered.
‘Jesus Christ, Charlie! Just hurry up! Get out here.’
And so, he’s here.
Jasper Jones is at my window.
Shaken, I clamber onto the bed and remove the dusty slats of glass, piling them on my pillow. I quickly kick into a pair of jeans and blow out my lamp. As I squeeze headfirst out of the sleepout, something invisible tugs at my legs. This is the first time I’ve ever dared to sneak away from home. The thrill of this, coupled with the fact that Jasper Jones needs my help, already fills the moment with something portentous.
My exit from the window is a little like a foal being born. It’s a graceless and gangly drop, directly onto my mother’s gerbera bed. I emerge quickly and pretend it didn’t hurt.
It’s a full moon tonight, and very quiet. Neighbourhood dogs are probably too hot to bark their alarm. Jasper Jones is standing in the middle of our backyard. He shifts his feet from right to left as though the ground were smouldering.
Jasper is tall. He’s only a year older than me, but looks a lot more. He has a wiry body, but it’s defined. His shape and his muscles have already sorted themselves out. His hair is a scruff of rough tufts. It’s pretty clear he hacks at it himself.
Jasper Jones has outgrown his clothes. His button-up shirt is dirty and fit to burst, and his short pants are cut just past the knee. He wears no shoes. He looks like an island castaway.
He takes a step towards me. I take one back.
‘Okay. Are you ready?’
‘What? Ready for what?’
‘I tole you. I need your help, Charlie. Come on.’ His eyes are darting, his weight presses back.
I’m excited but afraid. I long to turn and wedge myself through the horse’s arse from which I’ve just fallen, to sit safe in the hot womb of my room. But this is Jasper Jones, and he has come to me.