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MartinJohnI have read a lot of good books over the last while. If you want to be certain of getting good books into your hands, surround yourself by smart and literate friends who will recommend stuff to you. They won’t let you down!

Here are some highlights of the reading life.

Martin John, by Anakana Schofield

This novel, about a sex offender – told mainly from his perspective and his mother’s – is funny and disturbing and is rightfully getting heaps of critical praise. I loved it; could barely put it down. Then I saw Schofield read from it at the Blue Metropolis Literary Festival and was struck by how intentionally she’s incorporated a sense of rhythm into her prose. It’s the kind of writing that is inventive, demanding, and would be called beautiful if it weren’t so deliberately ugly for all the right reasons.

Submission, Michelle Houellebecq

I’ve been a fan of Houellebecq for a very long time, but over the last decade, I’d sort of started to wonder if he was becoming a parody of himself. Then he releases Submission, and I was still a little uncertain, because from the reviews it sounded like Houellebecq was simply trying to be as much of an enfant terrible as possible: conjuring a plot about the Muslim Brotherhood taking over France. But the book went down easily, “like a bad oyster.” It all seemed horribly plausible. Submission is not the reactionary raving of a racist throwback. It’s Houellebecq crafting compelling plot while winding up his audience, forcing readers to think through what would happen if there were a legitimate and well-planned plot against an ailing, enfeebled western liberal democracy.

Postcapitalism, Paul Mason

My yearly dose of non-fiction! First half was very compelling. Great insights into the crises that have plagued capitalism since practically its inception. I wasn’t so sure about the technology-fuelled optimism about the future. But I do think Mason is probably correct in his basic premise: a new form of economy is going to form out of experiments that emerge before capitalism itself is dead. Maybe the new already exists, and to steal from William Gibson, “hasn’t been evenly distributed yet.” A very compelling read.

You, Comma, Idiot, Doug Harris

Doug is a born-and-raised Montrealer and we actually have known each other for eight years, going all the way back to my strange stint of work at Bath Fitter (Doug’s production company cut Bath Fitter’s North America-wide commercials). I loved You Comma, Idiot. It’s a bit reminiscent of my own Blind Spot in that it features a schmuck for a protagonist. The book also provides a fantastic snapshot of Montreal, warts-and-all.

And I am up to stuff

Here’s a link to a recording of a true story that I told for This Really Happened, an annual event the Blue Metropolis Literary Festival. It’s called My Pagan Family, and is about the exhumation of a dead goat, a World War II gas mask, and familial bonding through druidism.

As for my fiction, I feel like a walking cliché. “I am working on my new novel,” has been my refrain for three years. It isn’t ready yet, and is unlikely to be so any time soon. Tentatively called “Northern Lies,” drafting of the novel preceded the Jian Ghomeshi scandal as well as the release of the final report of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. But now that those two events have happened, I’m calling this a post-Ghomeshi, post-TRC novel, because without initially meaning to, I think I’ve delved into some issues of contemporary significance, and the fear that grips me every time I sit down in front of my laptop is: what makes me think I’m even remotely qualified to write this? But I keep on keeping on regardless, and have checked in with a professional editor twice now, who has reassured me I am not completely delusional that I could have a readable piece of work at the end of all this. It’s the third major draft that’s underway, and hopefully it’ll be finished by the end of the summer, when I will again check in with outside perspectives to see if I’ve committed a gross act of hubris and white privilege, or whether I’ve made an honest and empathetic attempt to portray a plausible scenario that could have unfolded some time in the early going of the 21st century in Canada.








I recently finished reading this devastating book by James Daschuk. It’s an examination of the health and livelihoods of Aboriginal peoples on the plains of Canada from the 17th through to the dawn of the 20th century, and makes several points very clear:

1-Deliberately letting Aboriginal peoples starve to death, watching them die from countless new diseases, and dispossessing them of land and resources at an insatiable rate — these scourges of colonialism weren’t an afterthought, they were front-and-centre of Canada’s nation-making project.

2-The relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples actually gets worse over the course of history. The more the colonials built their prosperity during the 19th century, the further Aboriginal peoples fell by comparison. Settlers not only brought ways of living that destroyed Aboriginal means of subsistence — for example, the tragedy of hunting bison to extinction — they also intentionally inhibited new forms of economic participation, by frequently barring Aboriginals from trading with whites, or even with each other.

3-Particular scenes stand out, and in their particularity, remind you of some enduring traits in the character of this country. There’s the scene that took place in 1878, where numerous starving Aboriginals, forced to eat their dogs, beseech colonialists at Battleford, SK to give them food, and the response of the colonials is to simply fortify their dwelling so that no one will break in. This incessant miserliness, indifference to suffering, and focus on security, very much defines Canada up to the current day.


The plight of independent book stores was dire for over a decade. They struggled to compete against big box stores like Indigo and Chapter’s, and the ruthless Amazon machine didn’t do them any favours either, selling books at a loss and paying little to no taxes in most jurisdictions where they operate. But independent book stores are still around! The massive cull has ended, it would appear, and the hardy operators that survive are in it for all the right reasons: because they love books, not money, because they love to be part of local literary communities, because they help forge social connections between customers and authors.

The inaugural Authors for Indies day in Canada is May 2. It’s been a great pride and joy for me to be helping organize and promote some local activities here in Montreal. I will be at Argo Books from 11am to 2pm and then at Librairie Clio from 3pm to 5pm. I was interviewed about this event, along with Heather O’Neill, by the Montreal Gazette, and the Rover Arts talked to Janie Chang, the national organizer and founder of the event, as well as JP Karwacki at Argo, and again, yours truly for this great article.

It’s time to talk books, buys books, enjoy books!

This is the poster Chalsley Taylor of carte blanche made for the Argo event. Exciting times!

Argo Books
[Top photo: Argo Books, Ste. Catherine]

This is a harsh January in Montreal. The weather here is actually colder than in Edmonton, where Monika and I spent the Christmas break. One day is plus 2 and raining, the next day is minus 15 and even colder with the windchill. It’s jarring… Whine, whine!

What’s helping ease the pain of mid-winter is… books. Holy crap, have I been exposed to some great books lately, and that is to a large extent thanks to Argo Books, an independent bookstore located on Ste. Catherine, not far from where I work.

NorthEastNorth East, Wendy McGrath
This novel from NeWest Press (hey, that’s my publisher!) is set in Edmonton as well as a rural prairie farm, and is big on mood and the feelings of the young protagonist, a girl who is likely going to grow up fast, given the family dysfunction and scarcity she is exposed to. It’s very strong for psychological insights and there is a rhythmic, repetitive quality to the prose that is sometimes reminiscent of Thomas Bernhard.

The Freedom in American Songs, Kathleen Winter
Oh boy, I haven’t devoured right through to the marrow of short stories in this way since discovering Mavis Gallant’s Home Truths. “You Seem a Little Bit Sad” is a stand-out hit (for me) in a collection that is witty, true, poignant and beautiful.

My Struggle, Books 1 and 2, Karl Ove Knausgaard
This series of six books, totalling over 3,000 pages, has been a massive success. Reportedly about one in five inhabitants of Knausgaard’s native country of Norway has read it. Zadie Smith compared it to crack, and I agree. It’s got a super-addictive quality and is unflinchingly candid. I’ll be trying to say something more intelligent about this series on my blog soon.

On Beauty, Zadie Smith
This is the only book on the list that disappointed me. I enjoyed Smith’s debut, White Teeth, so I was surprised to be so let down this time around. For a campus satire, it lacked… well, teeth. Smith was too kind to all of her characters, and ended up seemingly on the fence about everything.

Island of the Doomed, Stig Dagerman
It astounds me that Dagerman wrote this when he was only 23. I’m about halfway through and already my mind is being a little bit blown. Seven survivors of a shipwreck are trapped on an island with blind seagulls and a whole lot of iguanas. The “memory-dreams” of each survivor are in many case even more bizarre than his or her shipwrecked present.


I started out 2015 by finishing the second draft of a novel that is tentatively called Northern Lies. I’ve been toiling away on this since summer of 2013, and honestly, I have no idea whether it’s publishable. If it is, there’s still a lot of work to be done. It’s set in Montreal, Mont Sainte-Anne, and the Eastern Townships.

In more unequivocally positive news, I had a story of mine, “The City of Magnitogorsk” published by Cosmonauts Avenue, an online magazine based here in Montreal that I am just a little bit in love with.

Happy 2015!

There is a fantastic essay over at the New Yorker called “An Answer to the Novel’s Detractors.” It’s a sort of rebuttal to the many recent writers who appear to have grown exhausted/exasperated with conventional fiction, a group that includes a couple of writers I admire greatly, Sheila Heti and Karl Ove Knausgaard.

Waldman’s essay takes issue with David Shields’ book Reality Hunger, which I admit I have not read. Her essay is by no means a polemic, or even a severe critique; it could be read, in some respects, as a call-to-arms for novelists to recognize the particular attributes that makes novels unique, and to deploy them skillfully, and to not lean on the many tired devices that can make narrative seem manipulative. (She is in agreement with Shields’ list of these tired devices, coincidence, eavesdropping, melodramatic reversals, kindly benefactors, cruel wills, to which Waldman adds “the revelation of long-buried family secrets”).

I really liked the way she set up her essay, suggesting a few ways in which contemporary fiction might be in trouble:

The novel form isn’t the reason so much contemporary fiction seems uninspired; for that, we’d do better to consider other causes, of which there are plenty: an emphasis on documenting social conditions and modernity over the study of individual characters, a post-Freudian tendency to lean on secondhand psychoanalytic ideas as a cover for incomprehension or shallowness, a corrosive commitment to niceness at the expense of the kind of social and moral judgments that used to be at the novel’s center, MFA programs, to name just a few possibilities.

I admit I got a quiet thrill out of reading “corrosive commitment to niceness.” There’s an awful lot of this  lately. I don’t know so much about the USA (Waldman’s home is Brooklyn) but in Canada the idea is endemic that books have to be good for us, have to grapple with social problems, build bridges between communities, etc. I’ve often believed that Canada would be about the worst place to be a talented reactionary fiction writer, and yet we must concede that such a writer might be pretty worthwhile reading, not exclusively because he or she would most certainly trouble the rather milquetoast consensus that’s emerged among our nation’s liberal left-leaning taste-makers. (I say this as an unreformed leftie!)

Waldman also  shows why good narrative is typically not ideological, and shouldn’t comfort us or confirm our worldviews, but rather, “baffle” us:

The novel’s tendency to work against generalization is not limited to political or social biases. When novel characters sound like mouthpieces for the author’s overarching theories about human motivation or psychology, even the least sophisticated readers recognize this intuitively as bad. And so novels don’t usually offer up simple theories about human nature—for those, one must look to self-help books. In this sense, good fiction doesn’t tend to console but rather to complicate, to baffle our desire for easy explanation, to give us not what we want but what we suspect is more meaningful, more akin to the complexity we encounter in life.


Since 2014 is wrapping up, I thought I’d look back on some of the books I read this year that truly stuck with me. One of them is Adelle Waldman’s The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. It was such a refreshing and original journey into the male psyche.

Some more highlights from 2014:

Woodcutters, Thomas Bernhard. My first Bernhard experience most certainly won’t be the last. The Austrian misanthrope’s 1985 novel is cruel, hilarious, and unexpectedly life affirming at the end.

The Freedom in American Songs. Kathleen Winter is one of my favourite short story writers since I discovered (very belatedly) Mavis Gallant. I haven’t even started on her novels or memoirs yet! Lots to look forward to.

How Should a Person Be, Sheila Heti. I read this for a second time and was just as impressed as the first time. There’s no plot, nor does there need to be. Just an examination of some of the most important questions of our times!

My Struggle, Book 1, Karl Ove Knausgaard. I now believe the hype!

Brighton Rock, Graham Greene. While promoting my own book in Edmonton, I publicly disclosed on the radio that I had never read Graham Greene. Embarrassing. Ran out, bought this, remedied my shortcoming. This is a mean, bleak book. I was hooked.

A Hero of Our Time, Mikhail Lermontov. Just brilliant. I raved about it here.

Some Extremely Boring Drives, Marguerite Pigeon. Fellow NeWest’er.

Here are the books I am reading next:

On Beauty, Zadie Smith (currently reading)
North East, Wendy McGrath
Boundless, Kathleen Winter
In the Skin of a Lion, Michael Ondaatje
10:04, Ben Lerner
419, Will Ferguson
My Struggle, Book 2, Karl Ove Knausgaard
Us Conductors, Sean Michaels

It’ll be a good finish to 2014, a strong start to 2015, hopefully!


Me pretending to write a book at the busy intersection of 109th street near the Garneau Theatre in Edmonton. Photo: John Lucas, The Edmonton Journal

Six weeks. It seems like a lot longer, but in fact, it’s only been six weeks since Blind Spot became available as a book in the world. In that time, I’ve read to about one hundred and fifty people over the course of six events: four in Edmonton and two in Montreal. I feel that, in many respects, being a newbie in this business means building relationships with readers almost on a one-by-one basis. I’ve met many new people throughout this, and what brings us together is a passion for narrative. It’s very life-affirming.

A writer needs readers. A reader needs writers. We’re in a reciprocal relationship. Of course, readers and writers are often one and the same person. Whenever I read to a roomful of people, I always try to stay conscious of this. There might be somebody in this room who, unbeknownst to me, is also a writer — quite possibly a brilliant one. Maybe they’ve not been discovered yet. How does that influence how I read or answer questions about Blind Spot? At the very least, it means I try not to act like I am privy to any special knowledge. Sometimes I answer a question about the writing process with an answer that sounds like another question. I’ll finish my statement with, “you know?” As in, do you agree? I’m not entirely sure. This is what I think. What do you think?

Several great questions stand out:

What is the difference in writing process between a short story and a novel?

How do you know when you’ve finished a book?

I answered the former question by saying I believe a short story is like a brief glimpse at the world. It’s like opening a window and peeking out. The writer perhaps draws your attention to something you hadn’t noticed before, or you had noticed it, and maybe thought you were the only one. There’s that nod of the head, that sense of almost kinship you feel with the author sharing this moment with you. By contrast, I said, the novel is far more concerned with story-telling. Even if the novel appears plot-less, there is still a requirement to set up a problem and to resolve it between the covers of the book. A novel is a far better vehicle for bringing closure.

Then my interlocutor said, “But I asked about process. What’s the difference in process?”

And that’s where I had to admit, I was a little stumped. Is it a question of time invested? Hard to say. I’ve got one short story that took about three to four years to complete. I kept going back to it over and over again. It took me that long to figure it out. Hmmm. There’s the obvious fact that writing novels, generally, requires producing more words. So it’s going to take a lot more clickety-clacking at a keyboard. But that was the only true difference I could identify.

So how about the second question. How do you know when you’re finished? Well, ideally, I’d say, you get to the point where you can’t think of anything left you want to change. I genuinely feel this way about Blind Spot today. I’m not saying it’s perfect. I’m just saying that I wouldn’t change it, because the book that exists in the world today is true to the vision I had when I was drafting it. If I tinkered with it now, I’d likely end up breaking it. I’m a rather different person now, and so I want to write different kinds of books.

That’s why I’m writing a second novel!

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Blind Spot is out in the world, and on balance, I am happy. I am particularly happy with how it has been received in Edmonton. My former hometown seems to have embraced the story with particular enthusiasm. At the time of writing this, I’ve been on the Edmonton Journal’s bestseller list for five weeks, rising as high as the number one spot.


THANK YOU, THANK YOU above all, to the independent bookstores. I was a big fan of independent bookstores before Blind Spot, I’m a lifelong devotee today. I can see how a city without an independent bookstore is diminished, somehow. Indigo and Chapter’s don’t care about books; they scarcely even have a passing knowledge of books. They sell products they don’t give a shit about in pursuit of profit, pure and simple. I hope I don’t live to regret these words one day, but there, I said it! Of course, I am one hundred per cent OK with people buying books from Chapter’s or Indigo — I don’t want to leave the impression that I am not. A bookstore — any kind of bookstore — is better than no bookstore. And even within these giant corporations, you will find individuals that care. I’m just arguing that caring about books is not key to the overall business model. Whereas for the stores that helped me launch Blind Spot — Audrey’s in Edmonton, and Drawn and Quarterly and Argo in Montreal — a love of books is integral to how they do business.

God bless those bookstores.

In the course of these six weeks, I’ve been joined by other writers. I have read with Thea Bowering, PJ Worrell and Marguerite Pigeon. I’ve discovered great new Canadian fiction. I’ve read things I never would have read otherwise, because before Blind Spot I didn’t really pay much attention to new Canadian writing. Now that I am paying attention, I can see there’s a veritable flood of fantastic fiction. Even though I haven’t read with either of them, I want to also mention Greg Bechtel and Kathleen Winter, two other writers I discovered this year. They’re both fucking great! The kind great that makes you want to swear just like that!

But still, I’m not completely satisfied

There, I said it. In reflecting on how it feels to publish a first novel, I admit that I want more. I want to read in other places and reach a wider audience. Next year I may well get to Yellowknife and Vancouver Island, and perhaps I’ll get to Toronto, Ottawa and Winnipeg, too, and I’m excited about these prospects, but I want even more. I want to read to Americans. If any American is reading this and wants me to come to his or her city, let me know! I want to read to Brits. If you live in my former homeland, invite me in for a scone and tea! I enjoy readings. I really do. They’re exhausting, but I feel like I’m fulfilling my life mission when I do ’em. I especially love talking to readers (who, as I mentioned, are also often fellow writers). I feel the social side of writing is often overlooked. I don’t want to overlook it. If books aren’t read, aren’t discussed, aren’t shared, there’s no point. We do this so as to feel less alone, less trapped in our own heads. We do this to make connections.

There is plenty more news about Blind Spot on the NeWest Press website, including reviews and media coverage, so I won’t repeat it here. I will make a brief aside, though, and say that the review in October’s Quill and Quire made my heart soar! Here is some of what they had to say about Blind Spot!

“Laurence Miall’s debut novel isn’t a cover version of L’Étranger, but you can hear Camus playing in the background… Blind Spot is the story of a minor failure, made all the more powerful by its honesty and restraint.”

I love this because I like to feel part of a tradition, part of a greater culture, part of something so much bigger than just little old me.  And I’m not at all adverse to wearing my influences on my sleeves. Albert Camus? Fuck yeah! I’ll take that.

So yeah, I feel like I am where I want to be. In 10 days, I turn 39, and I feel happy to have reached this promising juncture in my life. I still have a shit-ton to learn about writing and about the business of writing (less fun, still important) but as of today, I feel I’m doing OK. Above all, I am grateful to each and every reader that takes a chance on me and dives into Blind Spot and finishes it and tells me what they think. Even if the reader hates my protagonist, Luke, I’m still delighted that they make their thoughts known. We’re in this wonderful world of books together. Let’s live it to the fullest.

Blind Spot cover

Click to enlarge

This has been a particularly exciting week in the life of my novel, Blind Spot. The super-talented Michel Vrana, who also created covers for Esi Edugyan’s Half-Blood Blues and for Jian Ghomeshi’s 1982, has produced what is in my opinion a fabulous design.

I’d always felt that the cover should depict a car crash, and furthermore, that it should be pretty clear that the crash was the result of a collision with a train. So I hope I’m not being hyperbolic when I say it was a stroke of genius for Vrana to take the railway crossing sign and blow it up like a giant X — symbolic of a warning, an error, or even an overturned cross.


For obvious reasons (!) I’ve been thinking a lot about covers lately… My personal favourite book cover of all time is the one for The Great Gatsby. I can’t  think of any cover quite like  it, having the power to live on in a reader’s memory forever. Those eyes and lips, seemingly floating in an early night-time sky, are forever entwined in my mind with the novel itself. This Atlantic article makes it pretty clear that F. Scott Fitzgerald himself felt similarly. “For Christ’s sake don’t give anyone that jacket you’re saving for me,” Fitzgerald wrote to his publisher. “I’ve written it into the book.”

It’s perhaps fitting that Gatsby’s cover remains the most iconic, born as it was when mass marketing was hitting its stride. Many other famous books, Lolita, for example, have been approached in numerous different ways by designers with very different sensibilities. This is probably more the norm for the book world. A story is as open to as many different visual “identities” as there are people reading it. Here are a few modern takes on Nabokov’s controversial classic. I like the way the designers feel in no way encumbered by the story’s most obvious thematic.

Besides Gatsby, the other covers that are most memorable to me are the ones for J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace, Michel Houellebecq’s The Elementary Particles, and Sue Townsend’s The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole.

Blind Spot is out September 2014  from NeWest Press. It’s already available for pre-order at evil Amazon.


This is the third book I’ve read by Knut Hamsun, and boy, was it the oddest. The first, Hunger, was an absolute revelation for me. Upon completing it, I felt rather dumbfounded that it could have taken me 38 years to discover such a compelling author. He really is one of the greats.

[Hamsun] won the Nobel Prize in 1920… and he had a deep and lasting grip on his public, that of an enchanter. Singer admitted to being “hypnotized” by him; Hesse called him his favorite writer; Hemingway recommended his novels to Scott Fitzgerald; Gide compared him to Dostoyevsky, but believed that Hamsun was “perhaps even more subtle.” The list of those who loved his sly, anarchic voice is long. [Read more in the New Yorker]

Perhaps I hadn’t heard of him because his career was something of a sordid Scandinavian secret. Despite his Nobel Prize and popularity, he died practically penniless. The Norwegian government fined him an enormous sum for treason because of his Nazi sympathies. Hamsun admired Adolf Hitler – even meeting him once – and upon the Fuhrer’s death, wrote a eulogy extolling his virtues as “a warrior, a warrior for mankind, and a prophet of the gospel of justice for all nations.”

He was clearly a man of extremes. He had encountered extreme poverty (which influenced much of Hunger) not to mention extreme isolation, and extreme exploitation in the shape of back-breaking, relentless physical labour. There is a remarkable anecdote about him that goes like this. During his long stay in the United States, he was working as an auctioneer in Minneapolis, and after a particularly hard day’s labour, he started to spit blood. He was diagnosed with tuberculosis, which the local doctor said would kill him in three months, but Hamsun would have none of this, and booked himself onto a train to New York, insisting on sitting on top of the locomotive so that he could gulp down mouthfuls of fresh air. His self-prescribed cure worked and he lived many more decades.

I have to admit that Mysteries was not, for me, the same kind of transformational read as Hunger. It’s a very confusing read, perhaps deliberately so. A man named Johan Nilsen Nagel shows up in a small Norwegian coastal town and immediately starts to bewilder and perplex all that meet him. He has several strange, unconsummated entanglements with women. He plays the role of protector to a character known only by the name The Midget. Most of all, he talks—he talks a hell of a lot: in long, strange, seemingly manipulative and deceitful monologues or in long arguments with other characters.

To me, he seemed to be a pathological liar. But unlike other characters one reads or hears about, who are also pathological liars (the Mayor of Toronto?!) Nagel appears to be very honest with himself, or at least, deeply conscious of his own emotional plight. Similar to Hunger, in Mysteries, Hamsun shines a light of enormous intensity on the changing moods and thoughts of his protagonist.

Again, though, I’ll admit: I didn’t quite “get it.” I wasn’t ever quite sure who this man, at the centre of so much commotion, really was. It’s very disorienting to spend over 300 pages in the company of a protagonist who makes as little sense as this.

I decided to embark on this new blogging exercise, “Favourite Fiction Excerpts,” with the aim of extracting from books some pearls of prose that I really liked. This preamble has been so long perhaps because, in fact, I didn’t really find a lot in Mysteries that I could focus on and comprehend—I’ve wanted instead to simply make a very general case for reading Hamsun, despite all the obvious misgivings. There is one rather beautiful moment in Mysteries, though, which opens Chapter 17, that really appealed to me. Hamsun is very, very good at nature, and this brief paragraph is so wonderful because he so simply and effectively brings a halt to all the preceding nastiness and angst, for just an instant, so that we can take a look out of the window (the window of Nagel’s hotel room) and see the outside world:

The next day the same downpour, the same dark, heavy atmosphere. There seemed to be no end to the water that flooded the gutters and streamed down the windowpanes. Hour after hour it poured, and by noon the sky was overcast and still. The small garden behind the hotel was awash with bent and broken trees and floating leaves—covered with mud and water.

That’s it: that’s one of the rare interludes Hamsun grants the reader. Soon after this, the anti-hero Nagel gets out of his room and goes out into the night to stir up more discord and discontent. Several chapters later there is an extraordinary monologue delivered to The Midget by Nagel — most probably all of it an outright lie — about a cat, and a fish hook, and a vial of poison and… no, I won’t get into that because it would reveal too much of the plot.

One thing is for sure: I’ll be reading this book again one day. It was so unlike Hunger in so many respects that I perhaps brought rather unfair expectations to it. It’s a rare author that changes so decisively between one book and the next (Victoria, which I’ve also read, is something else entirely) but clearly I, feeble reader that I am, must work a little harder to keep up with Hamsun’s mercurial temperament!