Category Archives: Good Books

New Ways of Seeing

I’ve just read Double Negative by Ivan Vladislavic. I ordered it on Amazon. I’d read An Exploded View a few years ago and found it intriguing and memorable. This one is about a man, grows up in Johannesburg, leaves and lives in London, comes back after apartheid ‘ends’ and his feelings of separateness from things then. I’m not saying I understood it entirely. You know, there are some books that you come away from feeling really energised and thought-provoked but at the back of your mind you have a nagging feeling that you are missing something? And, for some reason, you feel the fault lies in yourself? You failed to understand all of the subtleties and literary sophistications? You alone amongst all the readers.

But I can forgive Vladislavic this, because I’m in love with his descriptions. Two reasons. They are so very well observed; he picks up exactly what is needed from what he looks at. And also, he uses only the exact minimum words and most fruitful metaphors and similes. You instantly recognise what he writes of, but in a new Vladislavikian way.

John Banville does the same. He says a writer shows a reality, but it’s not a real reality, it’s an artistic creation that draws us in – it is a ‘re-presentation’ and is artful and memorable. I think he added that if such a re-presentation is good enough it can merge with one’s own experience of that reality/image forever so you forget which is which – American Civil War/Gone with the Wind? Or maybe I just made that bit up? One thing for sure, I’ll never look at a photograph or a shopping centre in quite the same way again. I guess that’s the point of a novel.