Friday, February 17, 2006
I literally couldn't put Sarah Hall's second novel, The Electric Michelangelo down. It's cliche, I know, but it's true. In two quick days, I read fascinating novel of Cyril (Cy) Parks, a gifted tattoo artist from Northern England that learns his art from one of England's most enigmatic characters, Eliot Riley. Cy, begins his apprenticeship with Riley during the inter-war period of the 1920s. Riley, a drunk, but brilliant tattoo artist, teaches the fairly naive Cy, about art, tattoos, life and love. Well, actually not so much love as much as sex. When Riley dies, Cy packs up and moves to New York and is taken in by former carnival workers and ushered into the world of Coney Island where anything goes. It's here that Cy meets a mysterious woman who keeps a horse in her small apartment and has Cy cover her body in a single tattoo, over and over again. But more than the larger than life characters, it's Hall's language that moves the story on, making the reader never want it to stop, like a ride on a Coney Island merry-go-round.
"The tide was a long way out, further than he could see, so far as
anyone knew it was just gone for good and had left the town permanently
inland. It took a lot of trust to believe the water would ever come
back each day, all that distance, it seemed like an awful amount of
labour for no good reason."
The only thing I can compare this novel to is Moby Dick. Maybe it is a modern take on Moby Dick. Both novels focus on characters that explore themselves and observe the underbelly of human nature. And by no small feat, Hall is able to create an astounding work of fiction that may one day be able to be seriously considered an equal to Moby Dick.
Gina Ochsner People I Wanted To Be
Clifford Brown and Max Roach