Just finished reading Eugene Marten's novel IN THE BLIND from Turtle Point Press.
I have to say that on a sentence by sentence level this is one of my favorite books in recent memory. Marten's sentences are chiseled beyond teeth. It seems like every single line in this book was worked on for hours, and hours spent connecting them, and yet the story flows so smoothly, almost with an peculiar eloquence you can't help but swallow hard at.
IN THE BLIND follows this narrator around, a man who gets out of prison for a drunk driving accident and gets a job at a locksmith's. A lot of the book is filled with him thinking about locks, learning to break them, opening rooms for people, dealing with the strange, all of it in clipped and gorgeous language, actually similar in a way to SEAVIEW by Toby Olsen which I talked about a few months ago after it cut me.
I learned a lot from reading this book, in the way that Marten leaves things out, things most other authors leave in, allowing the reader to jump with him over the baggage and get to the meat, and in the transition leaving these weird gaps of air that make the surroundings that much more pushy and compelling. Certain sections of this book seem to travel out into a branch of nowhere, sort of like searching for a combination on a lock, if you'll allow the comparison. There's one section where the narrator moves through a dark part of a moored ship that is among my favorite scenes in any recent book I can think of.
I remember an interview with Donald Antrim where he was talking about how sometimes he gets the most glee in finding the ways he moves a character through a room. Marten has this in his teeth. Really. Fuck. Every paragraph is precision. I am going to stop gushing now.
I am going to open to a random page in the book and type the first paragraph I see.
I found a long one. I am going to type it anyway.
- - -
Lights out at ten. The switch that started the dark stopped the clock and you press your bunk, bury your head under your pillow, stuff your ears with cotton or foam rubber. You sleep two or three hours and you can hear it in your dreams, nightmare within a nightmare, the screaming, chanting, moaning, singing, rhyming, sobbing, preaching (Let me talk to you about God! What's He got I don't? Well it might be bigger and a whole lot sweeter!), howling of wolves, crowing of crows, knock knock jokes, someone jerking off at the top of his lungs, shouted conversations about sports devolving into death threats and gibberish, mothers, wives, and girlfriends cast in a contest of lurid punchlines (Nigger your mother's titties hang so low she got wheels on her bra, Nigger your family so brokeass poor they brush they teeth for breakfast, swallow they spit for supper), how someone's gonna toss someone's salad, how they're gonna and they're gonna till it's time to smooth your sheet, for forever till first light, The bitch cut me in my face, she cut me in my face, she ain't cute enough to cut me in my face.
If you wanted to sleep, the saying says, you shouldn't have come.
- - -
If that excerpt doesn't sell a book I don't know what will.
Every graph is that nice, often much less brutal, but still full of the refined power. You can feel the work here, you can smell it, and it made my blood tingle a little most every line.
I can't tell you how good this book is. I am trying.