Tuesday, 30 June 2009

The Bird Room - Chris Killen

Read: March 2009

The Bird Room in one tweet sized chunk:

If it weren't for Killen's skilled prose and condensed style, I doubt I would have bothered finishing The Bird Room

Where are the exciting young British novelists? So often over the past few years I have read acclaimed debut novels and come away wondering what all the fuss was about. Ross Raisin's God's Own Country infuriated me, Nicholas Hogg's Show Me the Sky flattered to deceive, Joe Dunthorne's Submarine made me laugh for 50 pages or so before trailing off...I could go on. But with all of these the main thing I took away with me was a sense of puzzlement. What was the point? What was it which that made the author sit down and write. What was their novel trying to say?

The Bird Room is a prime example of this. Small, insular, finely crafted, straight to the point, superbly descriptive, boring. If it weren't for Killen's skilled prose and condensed style, I doubt I would have bothered finishing it. It follows Will, a reclusive young urbanite, who cannot believe his luck when he meets a smart, sexy woman who likes him. But as the novel progresses, Will succumbs to his delusions and self-doubts and proceeds to sabotage the relationship to regain control over his pointless life. It is a dark work of run-down-to-earth twenty-something existence, populated with uninteresting characters who spend their days blandly surfing the internet for porn, dragging themselves to the bar to socialise with other monosyllabic individuals, and working in dead-end jobs which they don't even aspire to build upon. It is all very uninspiring stuff.

And what makes it all the more infuriating is that Chris Killen is a really talented writer. His prose is exceptionally tight, to the point, and well observed. He can conjure a scene in just a couple of lines, and has a superb sense of laconic humour. Just as God's Own Country was brilliantly and darkly funny, so this is to. I just hope that for his next novel he decides to turn his attention to a plot worthy of anyone's attention.

For it is not a dearth of talent which is resulting in these dull novels, just a complete absence of creative imagination and desire to really challenge the boundaries of what a novel can do. If novels are any reflection on society it seems that at the moment the prevailing atmosphere in Britain is bleak, disturbed, comfortable, and without any desire to change things. What a very sad state of affairs.

3 out of 10


Flat Out said...


Sam Ruddock said...

I feel very mean for saying all that but the only reaction I had to it was a big fat 'why?'

Flat Out said...

fair enough. the usual response to questions of 'why?' is 'because it was there...' - which somehow makes sense to me in this case...

Sam Ruddock said...

And that is a great response as it shows that what is there for some is not for others.

My question is based on not recognising that anything in The Bird Room is actually there. It's not only that I don't relate to the characters or the situations but haven't encountered them in any shape at any time and am so am not entirely convinced they are there.

So once again everything comes down to perspective.