Monday, August 11
Eleven Plus One...
I've just finished reading Twelve by Nick McDonnell for the second time. The tagline on the front cover reads "As fast as speed, as relentless as acid." Abstaining from drugs in the way in which I do, I can't comment on whether this is 100% accurate or not, but I can state that the pace of the book is so fast as to force you to read the entire book in one or two sittings.
Which is a good thing, since the story increases in pace to an incredible crescendo. I thought the first three-quarters of the book were hurried / fast, but they are nothing compared to the last few chapters. The various intertwining plotlines are brought to an extreme climax and combined to form a truly dramatic and somewhat unexpected end to five days in the lives of young, upper-class New Yorkers.
The chapters are short, concise and structured in a manner such as to entice the reader to move onto the next chapter without drawing breath. Compare this to American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, a novel to which many allusions have been made by critics and reviewers. The chapters in that book are long, rambling affairs, and leave the reader wanting to pause at least momentarily before moving onto the next.
McDonnell uses flashbacks to good effect, fleshing out the main character by giving hints as to his past and as to his character as a whole. These are helpfully printed in italics, which makes them very easy to follow and understand.
As noted, only the main character, White Mike, is given these flashbacks, but the other characters receive their own chapters, usually in a situation where they are by themselves in order to explore their emotions and thoughts. These thoughts are also expressed in italics to highlight their existence and to draw attention to them. Even in the occasions where more than one character is present, only the thoughts of one are given. This reminds me personally of Shakespeare's sometimes heavy-handed use of the aside in his plays.
The entire novel is written in the third person, but, coupled with the use of italicised thoughts and complete rejection of personal pronouns in favour of repetition of the characters' names, this does not detract from the development of characters, an aspect which is sometimes reduced to a lesser role in other third-person novels. The Irvine Welsh novel Trainspotting is a good example of the opposite, but the constant changing of characters is sometimes difficult to follow due to the lack of names used throughout the first-person-based novel.
One criticism of Twelve that does spring to mind is that McDonnell seems to try a little too hard to reference popular culture and contemporary living. It iis understandable that he is trying to portray the materialistic world in which his characters live, but it often goes over the top. One example is where he describes the clothing that two white guys are wearing in an attempt to be more black. Do we really need to be told that FUBU (the clothing range) stands for For Us, By Us? If the reader is in the target audience, they are going to know this already...
Leaving that aside, Twelve is an excellent novel which is both satirical and an accurate description of the times we live in. There seems to be a novel which defines every five-year period since 1985. American Psycho was the first, then Trainspotting, then Fight Club, and now Twelve. Like, it's just so great!
In other news, my suntan is looking fucking sweet.