Clear: A Transparent Novel

Paperback Editions
Contents:
  1. Hardback Editions
  2. Clear: A Transparent Novel by Nicola Barker
  3. Box of tricks

The assumption is that it's too thin a subject for a novel. But the novel is about thinness. One reviewer is closer to the mark in complaining that Barker's voice is cold, that she doesn't take emotional risks, that she controls her characters so much that there's nothing to engage the reader. Again, that's true, but it's also an expressive value. What bothers me about this book isn't its supposedly overly trivial subject matter what could that possibly mean, after "Madame Bovary" or its supposedly unemotional, disengaged characters what could that possibly mean after Oulipo, after Beckett, after Stein.

What bothers me is that the supposedly scintillating, mercurial dialogue which all the reviewers praise isn't interesting. The book opens and closes with praise of the novel "Shane. How'd he ever get away with that stuff? This kind of rapid-fire, apparently spontaneous, apparently stream of consciousness narrative is fairly continuous throughout the book. Each successive brief paragraph is like an apostrophe, directed not at the reader so much as at an immediately previous version of the narrator himself, as he compulsively comments on his own previous thoughts, and revises and sharpens his own ideas.

This kind of writing is intended to be clever, sharp, witty, unexpected, fast, and entertaining, and I think it is also intended to ring true to something like inner monologue of a dissatisfied, twitchy young urban male in London. For me it isn't any of those things except twitchy. There are many other versions of continuously self-doubting, cross-cutting inner monologues.

Among contemporary authors, for example, there is Mark Leyner. But Leyner is more linguistically versatile, faster, and sharper. The twitching voice in "Clear" is ticcy, like Tourette's. Leyner is more genuinely driven and often believably hysterical -- it's hard to imagine him stopping, which isn't necessarily a virtue, but it does make the act of writing compulsively about compulsive thinking itself a more persuasive. At the end, Blaine's magic performance it's the one where he was suspended in a glass cube for a month becomes compelling for the narrator: In fact he's finding himself again.

Little by little that necessary transition is taking place--from sitting-duck to superstar, from total access to none. It seems, at moments like these, that the narrator -- and the author -- can only permit themselves the very briefest moments in which they speak unguardedly about things they really care about. Aug 24, Booker rated it it was amazing Shelves: Adair Graham MacKenny and all his fellow Brits try to make sense of their lives against the backdrop of London and David Blaine's 44 day fast "event".


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  • Mom, Can I Keep It?.
  • Church Girls are Easy.

Among the topics explored, enjoyed, and despised are the American western, films, literature, religion, sex, food, philosophy, and magic itself. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I look forward to reading more of Nicola Barker's works. Hard for me to review this. Not because I don't know my own mind, but because this book ticks a lot of my irritant quotient boxes, which are in all likelihood personal to me. Firstly there is much to enjoy stylistically. Barker creates a good voice. She writes a male psyche so convincingly.

Perhaps that is its contemporary point. David Blaine the magician is suspended in a perspex b Hard for me to review this. David Blaine the magician is suspended in a perspex box over the River Thames for 44 days without food. The brits, my countrymen, come to gawp and either throw rotten fruit in the manner of the Medieval stocks, or they come to admire and stare in awe. Blaine is an empty canvas for all his audience to project their own issues and manias upon.

But then that renders the book a blank canvas for the reader to project whatever our sensibilities are. My sensibility is I don't dig blank canvases. I also don't dig contemporary cultural references in literature. Firstly they go out of date very quickly indeed, there are many here I wonder how an American audience will grasp, since they are particularly British and in many cases, particularly London.

Secondly pop culture is as Andy Warhol has shown us, empty at heart. Next cavil, an awful ratio of this book is taken up with its characters discussing and critiquing various other books: I feel this is lazy and antithetical to fiction being more akin to literary criticism, an arid uncreative form of writing when inserted into a work of creative fiction. I feel I may be missing out on something and I feel resentful. This is not the same as not having read say Jane Austen or Emily Bronte when it's referenced in a book, since it's not comparing like with like when holding up David Blaine as a source text to "Wuthering Heights".

How I wrap my book

I can't help feeling the whole book is little more than a shaggy dog story. It's main captivation and drive is the will they-won't they relationship of protagonist Adair with quirky Aphra. She seems to split nightly vigils between observing Blaine asleep and going to visit her husband dying in hospital. That's okay, but the Adair who is basically stalking her, takes over her hospital vigils and this just becomes too incredulous for me to accept.

The energy of the novel just sort of drains away, even though Barker sets up something to steal Blaine's glory when he finally steps out of his perspex prison after 44 days. I don't know if the event she describes actually happened or not and I can't be bothered to research it online because my investment in the book ran out.

Hardback Editions

I enjoyed the book while I was consuming it, but it left me with indigestion the moment I read 'the end'. I will probably give her "Darklands" a go. But not for a while. I think this book serves to show how your opinions of a book can change over the time you read it. I found it icky and difficult and I struggled to decode any cohesive message. By the end of the book however and this was more of a four or five star read.

Barker has to be the most meticulous of writers in order to I think this book serves to show how your opinions of a book can change over the time you read it. Barker has to be the most meticulous of writers in order to do this. The central character and narrator, Adair Graham MacKenny spectates this event along with a cast of very random characters and associates.

As part of the book, he questions life and questions Blaine and lives his own shredded but proud London life alongside. What is then, in fact, the message that Barker provides? It will have to be different for every reader. Or, does it simply mean that as a writer you take your audience on the most weird and wonderful writing journey that your computer keyboard can cope with? Both trite explanations could indeed be strong possibilities.

Feb 23, Emily rated it liked it. I liked the poetic nature of the prose and the spacing but the story felt pointless. Jan 15, Richard Moss rated it liked it Shelves: The American magician was suspended above the Thames in a perspex box, apparently without food, for 44 days. While attracting admiration and awe from some many more treated it with derision the box was regularly pelted with eggs and people would taunt Blaine by eating close by. Barker narrates her account though a Blaine-watcher - Adair Graham McKenny - who sees it initially as an opportunity to seduce women in the crowd.

But he then becomes fascinated in finding meaning in Blaine's stunt, and obsessed with Aphra - a Blaine-watcher who seems initially immune to his charms. Barker is a talented writer - and there are comic and interesting moments in this novel. But while Clear might have had a stab at capturing the Zeitgeist when it was published in , in , it seems old hat. Blaine's stunt seems a distant memory; the magician a faded force. Clear then is testament to the dangers of associating a book too closely with events that might seem important in the here and now, but don't have the heft to remain resonant.

I can't help feeling it would have had more staying power if she had created her own fictionalised stunt - and she probably takes Blaine more seriously than he merits. Our narrator Adair - though raising the occasional laugh - can be irritating and crass, and Aphra - the object of his affections - seems little more than a cliched manic pixie dream girl in fact I had to remind myself this was not written by a man.

After zipping along initially, the book seems to head nowhere, its plot becoming as emaciated as the man in the perspex box. A few weeks ago, I was feeling really crap and was looking for a novel to make it all better; a literary comfort blanket to wrap me up; a book-equivalent of Zero 7's album When it Falls. A couple of days later, things improved for me or, rather, they became a different sort of crap Although I had inadvertently substituted The Night Circus for another book about an illusionist, they couldn't have been more different: There's so much about this that I should hate, that I don't know where to begin: But I didn't hate it; I loved it.

Nicola Barker, I salute you. Erin Morgenstern, you are still languishing beautifully, I may add on the arm of the couch.

Clear: A Transparent Novel by Nicola Barker

Oct 26, Jason Williams rated it liked it. Nicola Barker doesn't really do plot. There's definitely plots to her books, beginnings, middles and ends and all that, and there's certainly stuff going on in her books. It's just that the actual plot jerks and stalls, prone to frequent sidetracks and asides penciling in the history between Barker's assortment of grouchy eccentrics and wannabe intellectuals.

The plot isn't bad, per se. You read Barker the same way you read Wodehouse: But the prose is so, so good. Jul 06, D. This is one of Barker's more abstract novels, which required some perseverance on my part unlike the aforementioned. The characters are well defined, animated, engaging and eccentric, in a way only Barker can create, however at times I felt like I was being shouted at. The characters all have strong opinions, all of which are vying for a place on the page.

There is a lot of philosophical posturing from the char I enjoyed this book but I have to say, not as much as the Burley Cross Post Box Theft. There is a lot of philosophical posturing from the characters, which I sometimes felt didn't enhance the story, although the themes explored were interesting. The brilliance of Nicola Barker's writing still shines through though and Blaine becomes both the focus of the characters and a bystander in their lives all at once.

She brings each page alive with her unique way of writing and even the formatting adds a dimension to the story that would be lost without it. I can understand how some may be disappointed with the ending, but I think the point is that life just goes on. You can philosophise all you want about the meaning, but it just is.

Nov 07, Glenn rated it it was amazing Shelves: Nicola built a story around the subculture of "groupies" who visited the site of magician David Blaine's stunt of spending 44 days suspended in a clear box above the Thames River in London. As with other books I've read from Nicola, many of her characters are dysfunctional quirky if I want to be diplomatic , but always interesting.

Nicola Barker has become a recent favorite author after reading Wide Open and Behindlings: A Novel , and now Clear, which I enjoyed Nicola built a story around the subculture of "groupies" who visited the site of magician David Blaine's stunt of spending 44 days suspended in a clear box above the Thames River in London.

Box of tricks

A Novel , and now Clear, which I enjoyed just as much. I agree with this cover blurb: Jul 27, Noora rated it really liked it. Kirja, johon tartuin Image-lehden kirja-arvostelun perusteella. V Kirja, johon tartuin Image-lehden kirja-arvostelun perusteella. Voisin kuitenkin lukea Barkerin muutakin tuotantoa, eli kai jollain tavalla kuitenkin pidin kirjasta aika paljon. Jul 18, Chimene rated it liked it Shelves: I found this hard going.

After the first few pages, I thought I was going to give up. I found it hard to find a pace with so many brackets and side tracks. However, the story as a whole, was worth the perseverance. The author's style is snappy and upbeat, strong narrative etc with some well fleshed out characters but there were just too many times I felt lost. Sep 09, Hannah rated it it was amazing Shelves: All the characters are very interesting, even the real people who appear like David Blaine, of whom I had by the way never heard before, Houdini and Dizzee Rascal.

I love Nicola Barker's way of writing, it's so unique and gripping. To top it all of, this is also one of the funniest books I've ever read, it has several moments that still make laugh out loud when I think back to them, which is a rare thing.

See a Problem?

Oct 14, Kira Henehan rated it really liked it. This is a little different from the other novels of hers that I've read - same style, less twisted dark shit. She apparently wrote this in three months in the middle of writing Darkmans, which was a tour de force of a novel; this one is simpler, more straightforward, shorter, but to my mind totally engaging.

Jan 20, Derek Baldwin rated it really liked it. This is very entertaining, often very funny too - in particular some events on HMS Belfast. Whether David Blaine in a glass box serves as the metaphor of an era voided of all 'reality', I really can't say, but it seems Nicola barker enjoyed playing with that possibility, and the results are enjoyable too. Add to that all the pranks, the trickery, the mischief making You have, in other words, the perfect encapsulation of the Blaine enigma; the difference being that while Wesley is Barker's own invention, Blaine has spent the best part of his career reinventing himself.

Unfortunately, the magician's callow manipulation of his image is by no means as rich or satisfying as the oddball cast of weirdos and eccentrics Barker makes up for herself. She might just get away with it, were her narrator not quite so consistently irritating. Barker chooses to write in the laconically tiresome voice of a painfully hip young man, Adair Graham MacKenny, who talks like this: I'm just a dispassionate observer of the Human Animal. If you feel the urge to argue this point you're at perfect liberty to do so , then why not write a letter to Ms Germaine Greer?

That's it, love, you run off and fetch your nice, green biro And I'm sure she'd just love to read it, once she's finally finished rimming that gorgeous teenager That's on page two, and it never lets up. Boldly declaring that "hyperbole is my middle name", MacKenny's commentary is peppered with self-reverential wisecracks and catty asides: Thankfully it isn't all quite as sloppy as this.

Barker still knows how to manufacture an arresting image; and niftily encapsulates the carnivalesque squalor of the Tower Bridge site as becoming "like a toilet with Blaine the scented rim block dangling in his disposable plastic container from the bowl at the top".

She also posits the intriguing theory that the box is actually made of glucose: MacKenny's main reason for hanging around watching Blaine hang around is that it's a good opportunity to pick up kooky girls. The closest the novel approaches to a plot is his pursuit of the wilfully opaque Aphra, a Blaine-groupie with a highly developed sense of smell, who works in the returns section of a department store, sniffing shoes to check whether they have been worn.


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