Wednesday, December 10, 2014
The Restraint of Beasts / Magnus Mills
Picked this blue-collar novel up a few years ago at Rodney's solely because it had a puff quote from Th. Pynchon--not a writer who makes a point of dispersing comments in the literary marketplace--on the back cover, read it, thought it was okay, shelved it, and recently pulled it at random from the bookshelf in an idle moment and, strangely, found it much funnier the second time around. There's no style to speak of, no philosophical generalizations, no backstories, no speculations about human nature, no tropes; none of the characters are described as to their appearance, and two of the three main players are laconic to an extreme, greeting each work assignment (they install high-tensile wire fences with wooden posts) with "For fuck sake," or "Suffering fuck," but the manual labor is described in close detail and I found myself significantly hooked, following the trio from job site to job site, watching them work in the rain, drink at local pubs where they meet no one, in the end undecided as to whether the narrator is fully compos mentis or not, the book clearly based on Mills' personal experience but with some starkly strange elements thrown in to raise it from memoir to novel status, much of the charm of the work rising from its radical simplicity and rigorously aliterary environment.