Review – Nobody Is Ever Missing by Catherine Lacey

9781783780877I grabbed this book solely on the back of a tweet from Joss Whedon but it then languished in my TBR pile for months. With the book finally being released in Australia I thought it was time to pick it up and was immediately sucked in.

Catherine Lacey’s writing style is electrifying. She skillfully balances between stream of conscious and almost manic narrative to intimately capture the unravelling of a person. Our narrator is Elyria who has, almost on a whim, left her husband and life in New York to travel to New Zealand where she is trying to hitch her way to an artist’s farm. Elyria has lost all regard for her own well being and safety and is focused on the one task she has set herself. As we travel with her we learn of tragic events in her life and her relationship with her unnamed husband.

Elyria is lost. She wants to be lost. She wants to go missing. Missing from her husband. Missing from her life. Missing from herself. Catherine Lacey captures this sense of running in prose that is charged with so many different emotions. Her sentences are long but frantic, her dialogue short and hidden. Elyria is spinning out of control but is just hanging on and Catherine Lacey manages to infuse this into her writing.

This is a novel that grabs you by the shoulders, holds on tight and gives you a good shake. It will captivate you, it will grab you and will not let you go long after you’ve put the book down. Nobody is ever missing because you can’t go missing from yourself. Even if that is what you want to do.

Buy the book here…

If You Were Lost on a Desert Island…

OMG Lost fans, guess what?!
The final episode of Lost aired over a week ago on TV, and the world – gasp – is still turning! Hard to believe, I know…

Oh, you guys know I’m only playing with you! Don’t you? I jest, I jest. But truth be told, I don’t get what is so great about Lost. Or rather, I didn’t, until recently.

Being the spoiler-lover that I am, I of course Googled the last episode as it was airing in the US and got the lowdown on what happened during, and how everything ‘came full circle’. Whatever that means. Of course, it didn’t make much difference to me – I had no idea who Jack and Kate and all the rest of them were. But while I was searching for reasons to watch the last six seasons of this TV show I knew very little about but which still managed to create a cult (that is, worldwide popular cult) following, I stumbled across an interesting little tidbit about the show. Apparently, aside from all the Sci Fi time-travel shenanigans and psychological madness and murder, Lost is a show which depends on its literary references to release clues to the audience. Clues to what, I hear you fellow ignoramuses ask. Well, only clues to the whole MYSTERY of Lost, gawd! You may as well have asked, ‘what is the meaning of life?’ (I’m just trying to give you a Lost fan’s perspective here, don’t get all offended).
Turns out literary references turn up in a lot of episodes, and they’re all symbolic of something to do with why these people are stranded on the island in the first place [yes, I realise that this post is strangely serendipitous considering Fiona’s most recent post over at The Book Burglar – coincidence, you ask? More like fate (Fiona, no I don’t think you’ll get stranded on a desert island very similar to the one on Lost…just..keep safe!)].

I am especially partial to the Alice in Wonderland reference – apparently white rabbits are a reoccurring theme in Lost (I wonder what it all means?) and the Chronicles of Narnia reference – the DHARMA initiative station, is named the Lamp Post, after the lamp post which marks the passage between two worlds in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Could I have been wrong about the show all along? Is it perhaps, not the models-in-bikinis-and-men-with-six-packs serial I first believed it to be ? Is it in fact, a much more respected serial of models-in-bikinis-and-men-with-six-packs atop a mound of LITERARY GENIUS?
Other examples include (but are not limited to): The Brothers’ Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Rainbow Six by Tom Clancy and Ulysses by James Joyce.

If these heavyweight classics are being thrown around like children’s discarded playtoys, it tells me there are some SERIOUS readers at the helm of Lost. In turn, I have to question my pooh-poohing of the series to one of my friends, who absolutely loves Lost but, she says emphatically, not JUST for Sawyer.
So I am done with my Lost snobbery. If it encourages the world to read more, I am ALL for it. Just don’t get me started on Rory from Gilmore Girls…*

*Actually, I want to talk about the Gilmore Girls phenomenon next week. So don’t quote me on that last sentence. It was for effect only, people!

Multimedia Does Not A Book Make

The release today of the stunning Alice for iPad video on YouTube (above) has made me wonder, yet again, whether these ‘enhanced’ ebooks that are beginning to pop up (mostly on the iPhone’s App Store) are anything other than a gimmick. For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, an enhanced ebook is an ebook with bells and whistles. They range from the no frills, DVD extras kind of thing – perhaps a written interview with the author, at best – to the sort of multimedia extravaganza that was put together for the release of The Death of Bunny Munro by Nick Cave. This iPhone enhanced ebook contains the full audiobook (read by Nick Cave) with backing music composed by the author (helpful that in this case the author is a musician), interspersed with video of the author in all his moustachioed glory.

For a long while, I’ve held the view that enhanced ebooks done properly (like Bunny Munro) are for people who don’t really like reading – and, in fact, aren’t even really books – and when done badly (I won’t name names), are just an excuse to charge $25 for something that is only worth $12. But I have changed my mind (at least about the former).

The new Bunny cover. Now with              less conspicuous female genitalia.

The argument is that by sticking audio or video into a book, it stops being a book (some would argue that this makes it a vook – those people are ridiculous; there is no such thing as a vook). Rather than ponder the metaphysical question of what really makes a book (I fear the answer may be full of smell-of-books style nostalgic silliness), I think it’s more worthwhile to think about how we – and by ‘we’, I mean me – consume books.

Nowadays, the way I read a book – ebook or not – is often peppered with mental interruptions, whether it’s wondering what a word means, questioning what the author is referring to or just following a trail of logic to its illogical conclusion. For me a book is not just the words on the page, but a series of associations I have made along the way. I’m not sure if this is a product of the internet age – where in order to understand what’s happening on Lost it’s necessary to have your laptop open and twelve tabs open in Google Chrome and be constantly flicking between each one before your attention runs out – but this is genuinely how I like reading. I suspect I’m not alone*.

The traditional paper book is, perhaps, the last great bastion of undivided attention and pure concentration. And that is lovely, for those times that you have great swathes of time and attention to spare. But the daily lives of many people sometimes don’t allow for that kind of reading experience. Should that mean that books get left behind other kinds of easy-to-consume media? I don’t think so. When I get off the train and want to keep reading, why not have Nick Cave continue reading me the story? And when the full brain freeze of reading is just too much for me, why shouldn’t I be able to check the news and reviews on an author simultaneously?

What do you think? Have you ever tried an enhanced ebook? Would you? How many books do you read a year? Do you think you might read more if they were a bit more accessible?

*Yes, I’m talking about you. You know who you are. You’re the one who looks up the name of every movie mentioned in a casual conversation on IMDB on your iPhone.