Jul 24, 2009

Monkey droppings - The Resurrectionist by Jack O'Connell

Today, a quick little review, free of lengthy quotations. I'm sorry, I recently moved and can't find my copy.

The Resurrectionist
by Jack O'Connell

I have not read a great deal of Jack O’Connell’s past work. I really dug his Word Made Flesh, a bloody dark mystery rich with virtuoso passages and rich literary themes. But as with many cult authors, tracking down his other novels is usually quite a difficult task. Needless to say, when a copy of his latest showed up on my doorstep, I was quite happy.

But I cannot claim to love The Resurrectionist nearly as much as Word Made Flesh. Much like Word Made Flesh (and his other works, if my research is any good), The Resurrectionist is a twisty, convoluted tale that adheres only to its own rules of plot structure and interior narrative logic. But unlike my previous adventure with O’Connell, the tale never fully gels into something truly memorable, resulting in a strongly original piece that feels incomplete, a book I want to wholly cherish but simply cannot.

The Resurrectionist takes place (as in all of O’Connell’s works) in the fictional cityscape of Quinsigamond, a bleak, bitter place where despair seeps through the streets like rancid butter (think Detroit without the glamour). Sweeney, the books de facto hero, works at an eerie clinic for coma patients who are seemingly incurable. The physician Dr. Peck is perfecting his ‘arousal’ method of bringing hopeless cases back to life. His own son Danny is a client, having lapsed into unconsciousness. Sweeney’s only link to his son is in his collection of ‘Limbo’ graphic novels, a series concerning the adventures of Chicken Boy and his band of travelling circus freaks. O’Connell weaves Sweeney’s attempts to gain access to his son’s mind with the storyline of the comics, which are told prose-style rather than in their presumed graphic format. Together, the interlinking stories form a tapestry of sad realism and high-concept fantasy that combine in surprising ways.

There is a wonderful vividness to O’Connell’s world, a tantalizing mix of gothic horror and kitchen-sink drama along the lines of the earlier works of Patrick McGrath. There is always an underlying logic to the dreamlike nature of O’Connell’s work; David Lynch would be an ideal director to take the cinematic reigns of O’Connell’s novels (and wow, what a movie that would be, someone get on that right quick already!). But The Resurrectionist, for all its many superior strengths, falls apart in its final quarter, as plotlines dangle and coherence falls to the wayside. Biker gangs and insane clinicians come into play, and the ending left me wondering if I my copy was missing the final fifty pages.

O’Connell is a vastly talented writer, deserving of serious acclaim and success - go on and read him if you think I'm lying, you'll thank me for it - but The Resurrectionist is too wobbly a structure to rank as one of his best works. By all means read it (I believe I am in the minority of people who admire rather than absolutely love it), but be prepared to flex your brain in unusual ways.


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