I never expected At the Edge of the Solid World to land a spot on an end-of-year list, but with thanks again to Kerryn Goldsworthy it’s one of the Australian Book Review‘s books of 2020:
This beautifully written novel places individual and personal human grief in the context of various massive-scale real-life tragedies, tacitly making the argument that the former is not diminished by the latter, and explores the implications of a claim made by the narrator in its final pages: ‘the body is holy and there’s no accounting for all that is lost when the body is gone’.
It’s not often your book picks up an honour like this: a capsule review by Kerryn Goldsworthy, running in both The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, which illuminates your aims precisely:
[Daniel Davis Wood] is one of those surprisingly rare writers whose prose style and powers of observation do justice to each other. The first-person narration puts the grieving father insistently close, like the Ancient Mariner, but one of the best things about this novel is the way it makes us think about the relationship between personal tragedies and human catastrophes on a grand scale.
And it’s the Age and Herald pick of the week!
Whoa. The first review of At the Edge of the Solid World is out there, in today’s Saturday Paper, and it’s a little gem by Jeff Sparrow:
At the Edge of the Solid World begins with the death of a child and then gets much, much darker. As such, it’s not a book for everyone. But it’s a significant literary achievement, nonetheless. … If you’re looking for a summer beach read, At the Edge of the Solid World is not that book. Rather, it’s a powerful and deeply intelligent novel that probes the extremes of human experience, a text about which you’ll be thinking for a long time to come.
With exactly a month to go before the official publication of At the Edge of the Solid World, I had the honour of writing for Meanjin about what I’ve been reading lately. As well as meditating on three impressive books, I took the opportunity also to think about the uncanny experience of finding the concerns of my own novel intimated in the work of other writers:
Narrative as a form of causal explanation is always too clean to encompass the mess of life as lived, not least because the language of narrative is finally expedient, therefore reductive, therefore unable to honour the unfathomable complexity of the world it purports to describe. That narrative is a double-edged sword — that to narrativise may be to liberate oneself from an experience while imprisoning oneself in an illusory construct — is something that I, too, have come to believe increasingly over the last few years. I cast a wary eye over anything that proposes a because: ‘this thing happened to me only because…’ or ‘I did that to them mostly because…’
Not that I’ve had a lot of free time during the Covid-19 lockdown, or the peace of mind to read a great deal of literature, but somehow — very slowly — I did manage to re-read Lucy Ellmann’s thousand-page novel Ducks, Newburyport. And I also managed to write about it, albeit a year later than intended:
This review is a year behind schedule. When I first read Lucy Ellmann’s Ducks, Newburyport in June 2019, a few weeks before it was published, I believed I’d find much to say and I fully intended to write about it. Just look at its literary bona fides: it takes the form of an internal monologue that runs over a thousand pages, more or less in a single sentence. If nothing else, I thought, its stylistic audacity and its maximalist scale warranted careful consideration. But then, when I came to the end of the book, I set it aside and said nothing. I couldn’t find my way to a beginning. I don’t mean to say that I found the novel wanting or not worth the trouble, nor that I found it a masterpiece for which I lacked the superlatives. I mean only that I couldn’t see the terms on which best to evaluate it. I found it adventurous and accomplished, and frustrating and tedious, but also something else, something more unusual for a novel: I felt somehow held at arm’s length by it, deliberately so, owing to an inscrutable design that drew me back to it after I’d put it down. So I’ve had it sitting here with me these last twelve months, its pages thumbed through for a few minutes most days, and now, after a year’s reflection, I feel better placed to address it. I still don’t think I can review it, per se, but I’m of a mind to give an account of having dwelt with it all this time. In fact, I think, the reason it has stuck with me so long is precisely that it doesn’t seem to call for anything from its readers. By way of its insistent ongoingness, its relentlessness, and its overwhelmingness, it seems to care not a whit for whatever anyone might say about it.