Crudo Hardcover – 28 Jun 2018
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Written at a war-mongering time of rising nationalisms, the vitality of Olivia Laing's
questioning love letter to life and to art will blow you away
Laing’s prose shimmers and is selfish then, suddenly, full of love. It’s a high-wire act. This is the novel as a love letter to Acker. She gives her a happier ending than the one she had. She asks us what a novel can do when unreality rules. She asks what it is like to be alive when the old order is dying . . . Crudo is a hot, hot book. The fuse is lit. (Susanne Moore Observer)
The status beach read of the summer (Sunday Times Style)
Finally, I don’t think I’ll ever forget the day I spent reading Olivia Laing’s Crudo. I couldn’t put it down, and then it overwhelmed me so much I had to put it down, and then I had to pick it back up again. A beautiful, strange, intelligent novel. (Sally Rooney, author of Conversations With Friends)
In Crudo her triumph, rather, is rendering on the page the texture of a very contemporary sensibility . . . The novel form famously struggles to represent the intersection in our lives of the personal-parochial and the political-global: here’s a way to try. And the writing is often so fresh and clever and funny. (Tessa Hadley Guardian)
Beautiful and strange, Olivia Laing’s Crudo is an urgent, compelling, funny and moving tale for our times. (Paula Hawkins)
A piece of electrifying writing (Daily Mail)
Electric and unputdownable, its 'love in the apocalypse' vibe is deep and light at the same time. (Elle)
Laing’s fiction debut is a fizzy and thrilling tale of a woman who may or may not be experimental novelist Kathy Acker, preparing for marriage in the summer of 2017. Beautifully written with a voice that grabs from the off. (Independent)
Crudo is intensely personal and simultaneously global in its concerns. It forces us to consider the two together and bind our own immediate dramas to those of the wider world. It is an important novel that shouts to the vastness and the urgency of what it means to be alive, now. (Spectator)
A blisteringly funny and remarkably tender debut novel from Olivia Laing, one of the finest non-fiction writers of her generation.See all Product description
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The disconnect between life in Western capitals and what is going on in the world politically is a meaningful subject, but the breathless manner trivialises everything touched by it.
I personally do not buy the mapping of Kathy Acker on to the author, but perhaps the meaning of that has escaped me.
To me it seems very sad that if it is the case that 'women' have 'found a voice' as never before what should be spoken is a diary of knowing consumerism. This book is not a critique nor even an exploration of consumerism, just an endorsement - on a par with flipping through the pages of Vogue. Perhaps readers who enjoy it do so because it valorises their frivolity.
I heard an interview where the author said she wrote it over a matter of weeks and there was a rush to get it published and I remain unsure as to why.
In interviews Laing has presented numerous explanations for her use of Acker as a central character; the gist of which seems to be that Acker based much of her work on ‘plagiarism’, Laing wants to echo that approach to evoke a sense of things happening in real time and taken from life. So, ‘Crudo’ incorporates elements of news, Acker’s work and other material, particularly elements taken from news and online sources. The intermingling of Acker with an unnamed woman, clearly based on Laing at the time of her marriage to Ian Patterson is presumably meant to raise further questions about identity and self-hood. However, where Acker’s work was transgressive, challenging, playfully juvenile at times, Laing’s novel is far tamer, buried beneath the veneer of experimentalism is a very straightforward narrative of middle-class angst and how hard it is not to be subsumed by a relationship. Buried deeper are the stories that Laing chooses not to tell, for example she describes arranging a cake on a plate that once belonged to Doris Lessing; anyone who knows Laing’s situation will be aware that her new husband is poet Ian Patterson, formerly married to writer Jenny Diski. Diski was brought up by Doris Lessing. Diski died from cancer less than a year before Laing and Patterson married, yet apart from brief references, such as the plate, the issues involved with inhabiting, literally, a former partner’s house and space are not confronted.
Laing claims that she wanted to, ‘capture the feeling of chaos, confusion and paranoia’ of 2017, but what she really does is regurgitate material without any clear outcome. Nor does her conventionally unconventional novel come close to appropriating the style of Acker’s best work. Acker didn’t merely incorporate material, she was a savvy theorist whose use of intertextuality and bricolage foregrounded textual practices central to postmodernism; her play on identity and instability was far more sophisticated and her carefully constructed persona/s informed her work, she was as much performance artist as a writer. Acker’s most celebrated work ‘Blood and Guts in High School’ was banned in Germany and highly controversial when it was published in 1984; Laing’s novel has been reviewed by papers from ‘The Guardian’ to ‘Evening Standard’ and selected as a ‘good’ read by magazines like ‘Grazia’, ‘Elle’ and ‘Vogue’, it’s sanitised subversion, offbeat fiction for the would-be ‘edgy’. If you want further proof look at the endorsements on the cover where Eileen Myles mingles with Jilly Cooper, that juxtaposition is as close to radical as this book gets.