A Year and a Day, Book One: Winter Paperback – 20 Nov. 2014
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Now I can see that not only are those reviews completely justified, in some notable cases they don’t go far enough.
Not only does this paperback edition occupy three dimensions of physical space, it occupies a little bit more of the Y axis than your other paperbacks do, because it is in TRADE PAPERBACK format which, according to the New York Times, was Simone de Beauvoir’s favourite paperback format. So that’s “one-nil” to the book designer.
'A Year and a Day - Book One : Winter' is a series of vignettes depicting convenience retail life on a small island completely surrounded by the sea. Recounted from the perspective of the author, who occupies the commanding ‘counter’ position of a local SPAR shop - but is nonetheless still subordinate to the Colombian store manager - each episode spews literature words and readable paragraphs to create a hole which is way, way bigger than the sum of its parts.
Spanning two countries (including one island) and mentioning at least three retail chains by name, this slice of parochial life is more than just amusing : it is the essence of the very densest isotope of humour, fractioned, distilled, put in a centrifuge and enriched, packed in a bomb casing, surrounded by complicated explosives and fusing mechanisms, and then imploded - right at the centre of your brain.
Jamie P. Barker has crafted a truly remarkable work. His stream of consciousness narrative refines and perfects what James Joyce tried but ultimately failed to achieve in his entire body of work. The incisive characterisation, the documentary dialogue, the juxtaposition of the mundane, the disgusting and the surreal brings to mind a more scarred and depraved Will Self at his most disturbed very worst.
If you haven’t read this, you haven’t read.
If we only ever saw these figures for what they were, humanity would be in a very different place - a place of love and harmony and peace. Instead, we throw rocks at these people, call them names, even execute them.
Jamie P Barker is not one of these figures - he's just a guy who's written a pretty amusing book about life on a provincial island that no-one gives a toss about. So feel free to throw as many rocks at him as you like. But at least buy the book first, yeah? It's the least you could do.
Jamie Barker's rambling, self-occupied stories are kinda brilliant, overwrought yet flowing, and you can never quite tell whether they're true or not, so you're basically getting two books for the price of one. In this year-long chapter of Jamie's life, there's never an exciting moment, just well-trodden turns of phrase written in slightly crooked order, plus pit stops of casual narcissism and human awkwardness muttered in such perceptively plain terms that I don't know where to look. So I just laugh out loud instead and give it five stars, hoping no-one notices that I've no clue what's going on.
You should definitely give it a whirl, even if you end up hating it. You'd never say that about Firefly, The Wire or Breaking Bad now, would you? Well exactly.