A brilliant new addition to Irish fiction's history of experimentation, "Solar Bones" tells the story of a lost soul stranded in his kitchen, looking back over his past lifeby Chris Moss / July 20, 2017 / Leave a comment
Solar Bones by Mike McCormack (Canongate, £8.99)
Irish fiction has a long history of experimentation. Mike McCormack’s Solar Bones, which won the Goldsmiths Prize and BGE Irish Book of the Year award and is out now in paperback, is a brilliant new addition, telling its intense, forensic first-person story in a single unbroken sentence. From start to finish, no full stops, semi-colons or speech marks are used. Indents do some of their work, but over many pages the prose looks, and sounds, like poetry.
Despite this formal daring, the novel is almost breezily enjoyable. Fortysomething narrator Marcus Conway is a lost soul stranded in his kitchen, looking back over his past life in an hour. His children are grown up, his wife, we learn early on, is absent. Marcus knows he has a tendency “to reason to apocalyptic ends.” But he’s an engineer, wont to regard life as a machine. His farmer father showed him how machines dismantle easily, but the son is stunned by the manner in which a life can come apart. The technical virtuosity involved in never quite altering pace is astonishing, but the extended flashbacks pulse with surprise turns.
Inevitably, a novel that’s wholly a stream of consciousness invites comparisons with McCormack’s fictional forebears. The flow here is less Beckett, more Joyce: humane, heartfelt and grounded in the realities of the present, notably the 2007-8 financial crisis. The novel’s form—that single shimmering sentence—resists pauses or interruption, but it’s the brooding inner voice and its wayward plot that make it a compulsive read.