Sunday, March 30, 2008


I need to share my bewilderment at the odd cover that Penguin chose for Jim Crace's novel Being Dead.

It's not so much the cover itself that bothers me (which is quite apt, though I hate the silly Blair Witch font), as the quote from the Guardian review they have chosen to add as a little marketing gimmick. These days, if a book is not encrusted with smartarse statements by Oxbridge-educated pen pushers it's apparently deemed worthless (which is why those random snippets from the Sunday supplements now make up a sizeable part of any serious publication. It's worse in the States, of course, what with The-Woman-Who-Doesn't-Have-A-Clue-About -Literature Winfrey).

I secretly hope that, like me, others don't bother to read them either.

In case you can't read this one:

Being Dead
Jim Crace
"A Joy to Read" Guardian

Don't get me wrong: it's quite an astute evaluation of this book, which, by the way, I can wholeheartedly recommend. It's a must for any committed materialist and contains beautiful passages like this one:

Judging by the modest blood-flow of her far from modest wounds, Celice’s heart had ceased pumping almost as soon as she was hit. Her skull was not as thick as Joseph’s. (That was something that she’d always known about the man. Her husband was curmudgeonly, distracted, timid and thick-skulled.) Her skull was weaker than the granite too, of course. The bone caved in like shell. Her brain, once breached and ripped, was as pale and mushy as a honeycomb, a kilogram of dripping honeycomb …. The blows across her face and throat cut off the blood supply and, though her brain did what it could to make amends, to compensate for the sudden loss of oxygen and glucose, its corridors of life were pinched and crushed. The signals of distress it sent were stars. The myths were true; thanks to the ruptured chemistry of her cortex, she hurtled to the stars (6-7).

But taken out of its context and placed next to the title in this blunt manner, the word "joy" in the Guardian quote seems a trifle ... flippant ... to me. Or is that just my sense of humour?

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