Sunday, February 17, 2019

"The Incendiaries", A Novel by R.O. Kwon

This is not a linear novel.  It can move between time periods from paragraph to paragraph.  Conversation is described rather than following the time worn convention of punctuation.  The three main characters have stream of consciousness descriptions of events that overlap with each other helter skelter.  Events backtrack. The future is foretold. Her first novel is a wonderful ride.

When first considering this book, I wondered if it could be like Suki Kim's first novel in 2003, "The Interpreter".  It was and it wasn't.  Kim's exceptional tale rang so true that it seemed almost like a memoir, not only explicit places and events but personal relationships as well.  As time would show, she never wrote another novel and while some of the events in "The Interpreter" were definitely fiction, others were unlikely to have been. It almost felt like I had met her.  Kim did and does continue to write non-fiction, both essays and journalistic reporting.

Kwon's book feels like it is based on experienced events as well, personal, watched, or extrapolated.  Well, I guess that pretty much fits the term for fiction but there are parts that seem precisely real.  For some reason, it reminded me of reading Jerzy Kosinski's "Steps" in 1973, sitting on a the veranda of a cliffside stone house in Grand Cayman owned by a Kentucky Senator.  Kosinski's seemingly random assemblage of short strange tales were incomprehensible in a way, viewed as written by a writer with an Eastern European sense of humor to charm the unknowing literary establishment.  Still, it was entertaining, and reading on that deck was also incomprehensible.

The writing by Kwon is exceptionally entertaining, turns of phrase that are completely unexpected but perfect show up regularly.  Insights are not forced on the reader.  They just happen.  So that's what I think, and this short book will be read again soon to see what it's like when not read in one night.


Post a Comment

<< Home