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Carla Paperback – 23 Sep 2013
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Any doubts? Only mine, and nothing that should result in a churlish loss of a star due to my personal taste. The author has stated that ‘short’ is the operative word when composing modern Indie works, and Carla definitely races towards a denouement at lightning speed. In this breathlessly rapid Twitter world of soundbites, résumés, compilations and 10-second attention spans this makes sense. Yet, even though I personally feel terrorised by time wasting, I do make an exception when it comes to literature. I am quite willing to spend weeks on Middlemarch or Moby Dick but not seconds waiting for a web page to upload, for example. And maybe because I’m not especially a film buff like the author I am not so obsessed with overblown Sergio Leone-type grand finales, especially in novels. Those are my takes on a sizzling work of Indie creative writing, too good to be labelled as ‘pulp fiction’.
John Dexter is an extraordinarily mentally disturbed man who has done some terrifying things (many of which are, frustratingly, only hinted at), but he's also oddly likeable. After a while the problems created by his extreme fear-of-abandonment issues seem sort of - well, understandable. You feel sympathy for him, and want to help him. Yes, this is a love story but it's more like a study of the type of psychological disorders attributed to Dexter. Aside from his completely absorbing case history, the book is witty, clever, street sharp and kinda cool. I can see why it has the 'cult novel' tag. I loved it. Mark Barry, thank you from saving me after a short run of abandoned books! This was a breath of fresh air, albeit a psychotic one.
A couple of things I loved - when John, the narrator, digresses onto another subject, particularly if giving spoilers about a film or book that might interest you, he gives the exact phrase to type into the 'search' on your reading device so, if you like, you can skip the digression and get back to the story. Marvellous! I actually took him up on it once, because I found myself wanting to read Norman Mailer's 'An American Dream' - and it worked! But this book is a perfect example of something I believe - never mind all the current trends in what are or are not acceptable in novel writing, when someone writes as well as Barry does they can stray from the plot all they like.
Negatives? Only one: too many uses of the phrase 'Carla and I' which should have been 'Carla and me' - hey, ignore me, it's a particular niggle of mine! I'm sure it won't bother anyone else. I've had this book on my Kindle for over a year, and am so glad I finally got round to opening it. If you've got it on yours too, please do the same!
John is a candid and compelling narrator. You’re sitting in the snug with him and he’s pouring his heart out to you over a few pints. While he shares his history of aberrant behaviour and his intense feelings for Carla, there are moments when you furtively look around the bar looking for escape and others where you daren’t interrupt even though you fancy another pint. As his story unfolds, you feel embarrassment, irritation and shock, as well as sympathy and anxiety. You know it’s unlikely, but you can’t help but want a happy ending for him.
While John may lack self-control, Mark Barry is completely in control of his words. This is sensitive, witty, sharp, hard-hitting writing - perfect for telling this damaged man’s story.
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A good insight to a person who is living with a personality disorder.