…are continuing themes that resonate even when diminuendo in so many of our efforts to express understanding of the human condition. More than anything else they unite art and science as a source of endeavour in that enterprise. Reflect for yourself if you will on what the basic questions of science (including social science), the celebrated works of culture and philosophy, are about. This is merely a book review.
But back in the commercial print world my search engine informs me that Romance and Erotica are way top in $ volume followed at a distance by crime/mystery and religious/inspirational as the top three by a fair margin.
Dominic Francis’ book God’s Pretty Game of Grotesque Puppets could arguably play in all these categories and so should do well. It also happens to be an exceptional if some would argue at first taste, weird piece of work suffused with all three themes. It is however, very well written. There is narrative energy and vivid imagery. Dialogue and characterisation are almost filmic. The storyline is of a Withnail and I type. Although, Billy Connolly’s description of his own story-telling in his quasi-autobiographical book Tall Tales expresses the style better: ‘…my stories [are] kind of lumpy and strange. They are a merry-go-round of memories, observations and fantasies. They are not story-shaped, they are me-shaped’.
Francis’ shape is determined by the death of his much-loved mother when he was in his early teens, a retreat into drugs and survival of an eighty-foot ‘flight’ from a notorious North London road bridge. He knows what being sectioned is like. No stranger to writing and song-making (in 2018 he won the Reuel Prize for Best Upcoming Poet), this is his first full novel.
While he and his talent are on his own admission a ‘work in progress’ for this reviewer at least Francis, (or ‘Walking Doctor Tonnan’ his adopted identity for the tale) already belongs in the company of Henry Miller, William Burroughs and J.P.Donleavy – and for me, Martin Millar. The ability to make sex, death and madness entertaining as well as challenging; to get the laughter essential to our humanity woven into the narrative, is a rare skill.
Well worth ordering now.