From the phenomenally bestselling author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time comes Mark Haddon's first collection of poems.
That Mark Haddon's first book after The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time is a book of poetry may surprise his many fans; that it is also one of such virtuosity and range will not.
The Talking Horse and the Sad Girl and the Village Under the Sea reveals a poet of great versatility and formal talent. All the gifts so admired in Haddon's prose are in strong evidence here - the humanity, the dark humour, and the uncanny ventriloquism - but Haddon is also a writer of considerable seriousness, lyric power, and surreal invention. This book will consolidate his reputation as one of the most imaginative writers in contemporary literature.
Despite the Curious Incident-like title, fans of Haddon's novel will find this collection's pleasures less immediate, but that doesn't mean they aren't here. Forlorn yet resolved in the face of an abrupt change of station, Haddon's speaker makes his way through a Britain that seems composed largely of hotels and rich people, as strange to him as the world was to his earlier protagonist: "above the confusion of forks// you will realize that is/ where your journey starts." Other poems rewrite horatian odes, imagine "Christmas Night 1930" and effect a "decimation" of John Buchan's novel The House of Four Winds. Technically accomplished and spikily humorous ("You did the Hippy-Hippy Shake/ I messed with Mr. In-Between"), the poems are marbled with scenes of same-sex love and desire, and ruminations on writing, fame and death. They will whet appetites for Haddon's fiction follow-up. (Apr.)
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April 09, 2006
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Excerpt from The Talking Horse and the Sad Girl and the Village Under the Sea by Mark Haddon
Go, Litel Bok Ladies and Gentlemen, members of the jury. Those of my trade, we are like the badger or the mole. We work alone in darkness, guided by tiny candles which we do not share, sweating to give birth to replacement planets where things happen which don't. And sometimes the hard jigsaw becomes a picture and not a car accident. More rarely we place our fingers adroitly on the frets or keyboard and multitudes plummet through the small white trapdoor which bears our hieroglyphs. Then we are taken up into the blaze and shout of the conurbations to make words in the air and strike the strange pose from the clothing catalogue. But sometimes we see a swallow in wintertime. And the talking horse and the sad girl and the village under the sea descend like stars into a land of long evenings and radically different vegetables and a flex is run from our hearts into the hearts of those who do not know the meaning of the words cardigan or sleet. And there is no finer pudding. Now I am like that cow in the nursery rhyme. The fire I have felt beneath your shirts. These cloisters. Red mullet with honey. This surprisingly large slab of Perspex. Your hands are on me. But this man is another man. The clock chimes, my pumpkin waits and the frog drums his gloved fingers on the dashboard. May the god whose thoughts are like a tent of white light above the laundry and the pigeons of this town walk always by your side. My burrow calls. Good night. A Rough Guide Be polite at the reception desk. Not all the knives are in the museum. The waitresses know that a nice boy is formed in the same way as a deckchair. Pay for the beer and send flowers. Introduce yourself as Richard. Do not refer to what somebody did at a particular time in the past. Remember, every Friday we used to go for a walk. I walked. You walked. Everything in the past is irregular. This steak is very good. Sit down. There is no wine, but there is ice cream. Eat slowly. I have many matches. After a Beheading When you have jumped the logging trains across the Hendersons and eaten stray dog roasted on a brazier, when you think that you can feel the rasp of a freshly laundered pillow on your face and hear the little song of halyards below your window at "The Limes" but come round to the smell of petrol and the sherry-hollowed faces of your dubious companions, when you want to lie down in the soiled, grey snow and never move again, you will come to a five-gabled house in the suburbs of a cutlery-making city and be embraced by a bearded man with the build of a former athlete who smokes "El Corazon" cigars. His wife will have perfect breasts and make the noise of a leopard sleeping. Neither of them will ask you for your name. You will be offered the use of a bathroom where the towel-glare hurts your eyes, the soap is labeled in Italian and the cream suit on the warmed rail fits with sinister precision. You will then be led into the dining room. There will be beef Wellington and firm pears and a jazz trio playing Monk on guitar and vibes. There will be many fingerbowls. Your host will say, "Eat . . . Drink . . ." and as your hand hangs like a hawk above the confusion of forks you will realize that this is where your journey starts. Cabin Doors to Automatic We take off in a lightning storm. The big jets kick in and we climb through blue explosions; below the fuselage, moonlight on the Solway Firth, the fields of Cumbria, ourlitel spo