Wednesday, February 05, 2014

David Peace, cliché killer

OK, so David Peace's novel Red or Dead is stylistically bold (perhaps infuriating to some), with its jump cuts and its repetition—uncompromising "to near pathological levels," according to one UK review. But he uses all the tricks to highly traditional end: a convincing, realistic, moving portrayal of one man, Liverpool soccer manager Bill Shankly.

And that's why I tear up at the mutual tenderness of Shankly and his wife, Ness, and I tremble slightly at his sudden eruptions of anger at players who question his judgment.

I was going to mention how impressed I was that Peace makes so fresh a story that, in summary, sounds like a string of clichés: the hard-working coach, the obsessive, the family man, and so on, but Peace says it better, in this illuminating interview.

© Peter Rozovsky 2014

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11 Comments:

Blogger James Chester said...

While I've not read this one, I know Mr. Peace's stylistic games from Tokyo Year Zero which was wonderful, but drove me mad, practically gave me headaches with it's relentless pounding.

Which was the point, I know.

February 05, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Right. The relentless pounding of a city under construction. Peace does something similar here, which he acknowledges in the interview to which I link. He says the repetition in Red or Dead captures the feeling of a long, draining soccer season, and boy, he nails it. He says simply writing: "Shankly trained with the players every day" would not have had the same effect, and he's right.

I guess reading a novel like this does require a certain patience or openness to what the writer is trying to do. And he admits as much in the interview. He is not at all on a high horse about his odd technique.

February 05, 2014  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

I'd love to know who Peace's editor is at Faber and whether he has nightmares or happy thoughts every time a Peace ms. comes through the letterbox.

As I've said elsewhere this is the book that should have won the Booker Prize last year. Nothing else on the short list came close to it.

February 05, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, I don't imagine Peace's proofreaders lose much sleep over the possibility of letting an occasional duplicated word creep in.

I don't know that the competition was for the Booker, but it's hard to imagine any novel being that much better. This is just a stunning piece of work, a beautiful portrait of a man. And I'm at the painful part of the book now: Shankly's retirement.

February 05, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Did you listen to that interview with Peace? I expected the author of such a weighty book, of such single-minded and unusual style, to be standoffish and intimidating, but Peace comes off as anything but. He seems like a pretty nice guy.

February 05, 2014  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Yeah I did. He does sound good. I'd love to wangle an interview with him myself. He lives in Tokyo so it would be a fun trip all round.

February 05, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yeah, you're fortunate. I had heard he moved back to the UK, and I spent a couple of days in York after Crimefest a few years ago, and I was thinking of heading north after or before Crimefest this year. But I've just read that Peace moved back to Japan.

I've been talking up Red or Dead to a select group of colleagues and soccer fans. One said, "It sounds like that movie The Damned Utd," which he liked. So maybe he'll try Red or Dead.

I suppose my apprehension that Peace would sound snotty or intimidating does not speak well for the aura with which literature has surrounded itself since, oh, Joyce's time.

February 05, 2014  
Anonymous stark32 said...

Haven't read "Red or Dead." Tried some of his earlier work but I figured if I wanted to read James Ellroy, I could read the original. My cat could have written "Tokyo Year Zero" and the follow-up, the plots of which he got from a true crime book "Shocking Crimes of Post War Japan."

February 06, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, now, that's harsh criticism, though I suspect it might not shock or even alarm David Peace. He concedes in the interview to which I link in the body of this post that his style is not for everyone.

I read The Cold Six Thousand almost immediately before picking up Red is Dead, and, like you, I at first likened Peace's style to Ellroy's. But I realize now there are significant differences. Ellroy will paint with a great, wide brush, whereas Peace will keep the focus small and almost obsessive.

I can defend Peace's style only by saying that his is not technique for its own sake. He tells a touching, very human story, and the technique, even at its most extreme is always in service to that story. Peace is no show-off.

February 06, 2014  
Blogger Kelly Robinson said...

Everything I've read about Peace's style makes him sound like someone I'd enjoy very much.

February 09, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

That makes you an ambitious reader, then. Peace himself concedes his style is not for everyone. But, once again, I can assure nervous readers that in Red or Dead, at least, he's not just showing off. Everything about the style, every quirk and every trick, is strictly in the service of the book's subject. He does this in so many interesting ways that I may put up another post on the subject.

February 09, 2014  

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