Monday, 26 January 2009

Chris Killen - The Bird Room (Canongate 2009)

‘The Bird Room’ by Canongate’s newest signing Chris Killen is indicative of why they’re the best imprint around. Their ability to source the newest and best writers around knows no bounds. ‘The Bird Room’ is a contemporary look at love and lust in the grimy underbelly of an information age city. Trysts and solicitations are made online, furtive texts are sent and the boundaries between your ‘dream-relationship and your ‘dream’ relationship blur into a vague grey complexion and 4 day stubble. This is a funny, dark and potent book, minimalist in its description but with characters rich and interesting and all suffering from low self-esteem as they navigate the confines of their own consciousness. Will used to be best friends with Will. Will is unemployed, paranoid, jealous and hanging on to his girlfriend Alice out of obligation and fear of loneliness. Will is a suave, charming, rock’n’roll artist, prone to speaking his lecherous mind and making everyone fall in love with him. Which Will has Alice fallen in love with? Across the city is Helen. Except Helen is not her real name. She wants to be an actress, but in this city of broken dreams, there is only one regular source of steady acting work. As all paths converge, the dual narrative of Will and Helen’s lives bring them both slowly to a raw shocking dark conclusion that is both explosive and implosive. Killen cleverly takes the staid subject of love and lust and all in between and turns in a strong compact book that is every inch contemporary and classic, while visceral and well-written. This is the stuff that makes you sit up and want to be better at what you do. ‘The Bird Room’ is a quick and easy read but its dark heart and inherent bleakness about repeating patterns of behaviour and habit will stay with you for months.

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