Thursday, June 6, 2013

Odd and Unusual!

We've created a new, highly selective little section in the bookshop called Odd and Unusual. (You can find it under the sign of the yellow and blue eyed cat...). If you're an odd and unusual person yourself, or have aspirations in that direction, you might have some fun with the books we're adding to these shelves!
Gracing our Odd and Unusual shelves at the moment are books like A Cabinet of Greek Curiosities: Strange Tales and Surprising Facts from the Cradle of Western Civilization by J.C. McKeown and Weird Life: The Search for Life that is Very, Very Different from Our Own by David Toomey.

And I've just added one of my favorite odd and unusually good novels to this section. The book is titled The Raw Shark Texts, by a young British writer named Steven Hall, published back in 2007. To tell you about the book, I can't do any better than to crib from a review of the book from the Washington Post by Tyler Knox, who clearly enjoyed the shark as much as I did:

"The star of Steven Hall's rousingly inventive The Raw Shark Texts is its villain -- always a good sign in a thriller. Raymond Chandler famously said, "When in doubt, have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand." Hall one-ups Chandler by sending in a shark. But not just any shark, a conceptual shark called a Ludovician, which swims in a current of words and ideas and feeds on memory and sense of self. Every time the Ludovician makes an appearance, Hall's novel jolts to life.

Eric Sanderson gasps awake one day to find his memory missing. As Eric struggles to forge a bland and static life, a series of letters, apparently from his self before the memory loss, the so-called First Eric, warns him of the conceptual shark that, with a vengeance as unmotivated as Iago's, is determined to eat Eric's memory over and over....Second Eric doesn't buy it until he spies the figure of a shark within the white noise of his television...

It isn't long before Eric is on the run, dodging the memory eater and searching for the strange Dr. Fidorous, who might just be able to get the damn shark off his tail. At this point the novel takes on the cloak of your typical thriller: a man on the run, aided by a great-looking waif with a killer smile and a bomb in her pocket. Oh, yeah, and there's a cat....More compelling are the journals written by First Eric, the raw texts of the title, that give glimpses of Eric's romance with Clio, the love of his life, who was killed in a tragic accident off the coast of Greece.

...Even as Hall takes great delight in showing off the details of his world with all kinds of loopy names and textual tricks -- including one terrific visual sequence where the terrifying nature of the shark is made real -- his methods almost always serve the purpose of the story. And for a first novelist, Hall has a nice way of hiding telling details until the end of a sentence or a scene, like the stinger at the end of a scorpion's tail.

It's all a lot of fun, yet there is also a surprising emotional resonance in seeing Second Eric, like Beckett's Krapp with his tapes, reading and rereading First Eric's journals as he obsesses over the experiences that the Ludovician has chomped out of his head. And to hear Second Eric's voice take on the snap of his predecessor's is especially satisfying.

Best of all, there is the shark itself, wily and relentless, with its chilling eye and gaping maw, hungry for memory.."

--Tom Campbell

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