It was title that attracted me – I thought immediately of William Blake, who in fact makes an appearance in the book – that, and the recommendation by Jeanette Winterson on the cover. “A genuine and rare work of the imagination.”
It’s always exciting to read an uncompromising work that pays no heed to the populist notion of readability. The narrator, Marcia, can look at a crease on a bedsheet and go off on a convoluted chain of associations. It is more a compulsive burrowing downward than a flight of fancy. The white sheet becomes a snowy shore, there is a house at the edge of the snows; someone lies dying. It’s an old woman in a strait-jacket. She has been stabbed by the man who does not dream. He treads backwards on snow-shoes, making his escape, until on the white horizon he sees the Queen of the Snows.
Marica spends some more time in this landscape, and ponders this question: geologists make great studies of creases in the earth’s crust just because they are big and last long, but why shouldn’t sheet folds be as important because they are small and here only briefly?
She goes downstairs to continue the day’s cleaning. The old grey carpet only seems grey, down on hands and knees there are islands of wool on a lattice of threads, and even in the poor light the fibres are a riot of colours. Marica follows the course of a dustball across this ocean for three full pages until she reaches the fungus, who personifies the Empire of Decay. She talks with him until the doorbell rings, three times. It is her housewife friends, coming for the coffee morning.
Read on …
Throughout the day her mind veers from bits of dirt to conversations with the likes of Darwin, Blake, and Teilhard DeChardin. The buzzing inside this housewife’s head is utterly disproportionate to her mundane reality. We are told Marcia is a mathematics graduate, and now she stays at home cleaning all day while her husband goes to his office. However there is no real sense of the tragedy of a mind growing in on itself. It’s all sophisticated entertainment. The intricate machinations are sometimes fascinating, often boring, and always with arbitrary twists.
My chief complaint is the narrator’s vision is just not weird enough. I feel the author is only pretending; at heart he is comfortably in the same universe as Marcia’s husband and the doctor in the white coat. He has given us only a fictional Marcia.