We don’t read books in vacuums, and thank god. We do not experience them and digest them in objective circumstances and it is that which gives reading a rich subjectivity that is for the avid reader, unbeatable.
I read Honor Gavin’s Midland in the midst of moving flat, reading the book in stops and starts, usually with a headache and often with scratches and bruises from awkwardly assembling IKEA furniture. Midland in many ways reflects this disjointedness; the feeling of things not quite matching up, out of place and out of time.
The book flitters between narrators: Birmingham itself, the bab as we affectionately know her, and the ww (Working Woman); never settling on a definite angle or perspective, the only constant is the book’s anti-hero: the A4400 ring road. I read a review of the book on the Cargo Collective website (http://cargocollective.com/alicehonorgavin/Midland) that said that the book is not a ‘contained text’ and it ‘sprawls beyond itself’ , and this is right on point. As you read Midland you feel the form of the novel shaking under the weight of space and time, the foundations quaking and beginning to cave in; as if all time is coming down upon us.
I was reminded of Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow with the bombs and the disorientating and overlapping narratives, and the general sense of not quite knowing what was happening, as if the narrative was accelerating beyond your perception- and it was this feeling that at times I found a little oppressive and disorientating. But it is Gavin’s writing that keeps you invested in the book and she has a fantastic way at spinning convoluted, almost Beckettian, sentences that are very enjoyable to read and digest, such as: “The other and Doug tended- or tend: tense is after all a tender issue in these times- the other and Doug tend to get along wonderfully”.
Whilst not quite a masterpiece, the impression that Honor Gavin is an author to watch is undeniable. Here is an author writing on the edges of the form and it is exhilarating, if at times a little frightening!