Wednesday, October 15, 2014

K. M. Ross: The Blinding Walk

K. M. Ross: The Blinding Walk (2014)

Pretty exciting news in the post this morning: I opened up the mailbox to find a copy of my brother Ken's huge new novel, just published by Waywiser Press in Oxford (UK). It's a pretty damned handsome looking book, I reckon, and I was very pleased to see that it can readily be ordered from this country, too (I checked on Fishpond - no extra postage costs - but no doubt it's available through most of the other sites as well).

cover with spine

There's some interesting comments in the interview with Rebecca Robinson which you can find on the Waywiser site. She asks him, "Who are your major influences?" (a little like that scene in The Commitments where each musician auditioning for Jimmy Rabbitte's soul band has to state their affiliations before they've even allowed in the door):
In English language literature, the great Modernists, Joyce, Faulkner, Hemingway and Virginia Woolf; J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis; Joseph Conrad and Henry James; extraordinary individual talents such as Laurence Sterne, John Cowper Powys and Patrick White; Post-Modernists such as Kathy Acker and J. G. Ballard; and too many poets to name. In other languages: Old Icelandic Saga literature, Snorri Sturluson; the Russians; Proust and Georges Perec; and the modern South Americans: García Márquez and Vargas Llosa and Jorge Luis Borges and so many others. I also tend to draw ideas from film (Andrei Tarkovsky, Ingmar Bergman), graphic novels, and music of all eras.

You can find out more about the novel itself from the blurb and summary up on the site, but I thought I'd just mention here that Ken's previous novel, Falling Through the Architect, was published by the Writers Group here in New Zealand in 2005:

cover image by Will Maclean / Cover design by James Fryer

Those of you who are aficionados of brief magazine might also be interested to hear that Ken has published quite a lot of material in that journal over the years, including substantial extracts from both novels. Here's a list from the brief authors' page:
  1. The Demon Home / 24 (2002): 17-18
  2. from Falling Through the Architect / 25 (2002): 45-48
  3. Rambo; Dumped / 27 (2003): 77-82
  4. Sun’s Lid / 29 (2004): 53-56
  5. Tripping / 30 (2004): 92-95
  6. Out and Out / 31 (2004): 80-82
  7. Exile and the Wolf / 33 (2006): 41-43
  8. The Art of. .. / 34 (2007): 116-19
  9. Te Ika / 35 (2007): 83-87
  10. Review of Song of the Brakeman by Bill Direen / 35 (2007): 120-21
  11. The Clay Monster / 36 (2008): 83-86
  12. Venusian Transit / 37 (2009): 32-38
  13. Thrash / 39 (2010): 3-9
  14. The Headless: Lucy /40 (2010): 66-69
  15. The Headless: Coleop / 41 (2010): 10-13
  16. Ballad of the Kitchen Corner / 42 (2011): 58-62
  17. The Last Great Road Race / 46 (2012): 133-39
  18. from The Blinding Walk / 50 (2014): 75-93

Ken's doing a reading from The Blinding Walk at the Albion Beatnik Bookstore (great name for a bookshop!), 34 Walton Street, Oxford, on Friday 24th October at 7:30 p.m., so if any of you happen to be in the UK, you might like to check that out as well.

The book is dedicated to my sister Anne, and among the acknowledgements Bronwyn and I are both listed. This is a very special event for us, and I wish Ken great joy from this wonderful success. Now let's just sell a few copies! It is about a couple of feckless Kiwis on their OE, so you'd think that would ring a chord with a lot of readers, both local and expatriate.

Reviews & Comments:

  1. Helen Dumont, "Helen's Bookshelf: The Blinding Walk." Midwest Book Review: Oregon, USA (January 2015):

    … An epic novel of skilfully crafted and memorable characters deftly woven into a complex and engaging story that holds the reader's rapt attention from beginning to end. Exceptionally well written, "The Blinding Walk" documents K. M. Ross as an author of considerable and evident talent as a master storyteller. Simply stated, "The Blinding Walk" is very highly recommended for both personal reading lists and community library General Fiction collections.

  2. Richard Taylor, "Dark Invading Geist: The Blinding Walk by K.M. Ross (Waywiser Press, 2015), 520 pp., $30." Landfall Review Online (March 2016):

    I must emphasise the extraordinarily unusual and often ingenious use of language by Ross. It seems to me a unique book, a big philosophical-spiritual novel, using techniques and themes not often attempted by New Zealand writers. The protagonists are searching for artistic or transcendent meaning. Their drive is to create, to write, to compose music (and ‘fail’, as Yehune does, magnificently).

  3. William Direen, "Review of K. M. Ross. The Blinding Walk. Waywiser Press, Oxon and Baltimore. 2015." Percutio 10 (2016): 67-68.

    It is a story that begins in Sydney and crosses three continents. For me, it began in 2006 (Percutio #0) when the author submitted an extract from The Blinding Walk in progress. It was not the last Ross (K. M.) extract Percutio would publish. This hefty volume sees the work's completion. He welds the episodes together skilfully, making a greater story of it, without completely driving away the Faulknerian brume of the extracts. If he and his characters have that kiwi knack of slipping into foreign cultures almost unnoticed, the author has the Scottish flair for plain speaking and never vaunting one's prowess. Even at his most seemingly experimental, his work never seems insurmountable. While it lacks the linguistic compression of a Samuels or the diversionary tactics of a Koed, Ross has a similar interest in overcoming linguistic playfulness, to engage.

    Peppered through these 500 pages of 'walk' you'll hear a variety of accents. We rove from early Strine ('Thees eez a see-vilised country') to French ('Allay, allay') to 'failing with English' and '[falling back] on signs', to Russian, Italian and the inevitable Scottish. The last chapter, 'One, Two, Three' is like a setting off, and contains some of the best prose of the book. If this is a departure for K. M. Ross, I would like to see where it leads him: 'sun reflected, giving a wordless message to whatever it was in our heads that was open and unregarded; the me, which you can't expect to last very long in the lift of the wind and the corridors of school and the treading and treading down into mud-scuffed floors'.

    Too true.


Richard said...

How many pages is this book? Is it quite different from 'Falling...'?

That book had some strange and interesting parts but I didn't manage to finish it. I should have persisted, I must revisit. Maybe I will have a go. The huge denouncements / statements that seemed to come from God or something reminded me (indirectly) of 'Last Exit to Brooklyn' (and in a remote way also of the part of the movie Pulp Fiction where the guy gives those he is about to shoot - he is just a gangster - a kind of religious philosophic lecture - before he shoots them! That sort of thing occurs in 'Last Exit...')

Dr Jack Ross said...

Dear Richard,

The book has 513 pages. It certainly is different from Falling Through the Architect, but I don't think any of Ken's works could ever be described as an easy read, exactly. The sections devoted to his two protagonists' journey across China and Russia will be very evocative to many ex-OE travellers, though -- as are the sections set in Scotland for those of us who've spent time there.

Give it a go, is my advice.

best, jack

John van Houten said...

My copy is on its way from Amazon USA. I;m definitely looking forward to reading it.

Half of Falling through the Architect was an engaging and pleasant read. The "denouncements" were a struggle for me and sailed right over my head.

best John

Richard said...

Well, I would be interested in reviewing it if you could place the review. I wouldn't guarantee to be positive, I recall there were some fascinating aspects to 'Falling...' but the mood or atmosphere seemed strangely dark, not a bad thing. I started a novel by Irvine Welsh and it had a similar tone...but I am sure there was a lot of depth.

(I still want to review, belatedly, your book and Scott's etc but that is a different categorie for now. I also think I can have a good bash at Murray Edmond's and Ted's books. I think it is also time for a general work on poets leading into his generation and some not covered by The Big Smoke etc)

There is some interesting stuff on Ka Mate. That is another possible avenue for a longer more considered thing, although it seems a bit formidable to me...still, some possibilities. Landfall, PNZ and Brief. See how it goes. I think I will give Ken's new book a lash.

Richard said...

Yes, the denouncements: they reminded me somehow of 'Last Exit...' They had potential as a method. I still have a copy of the book. I must read it right through.

I must get this one. Sometimes 'The Book Depository' are better or if you go to say and do an advanced search, in some cases there is a local dealer (in my case NZ).

But for new books. Here is a link. Ken's book is going there for just under NZ$30.00 and there is no postal charge to NZ (and a number of other countries).

Trouble is I have so many books, want so many, have so many unread...Still I am interested in this book.

Richard said...

Jack I just noticed 'ideas from Ingmar Bergman' and I had (by chance) watched the first movie by Bergman ever called 'Persona' and in it the 2 protagonist's faces, come together (Uhlmann and another actress, both are brilliant actresses). I wondered if this is where Ken got the inspiration for his cover image.


Dr Jack Ross said...

Dear Richard,

I'd have to specify that it's Waywiser Press, Ken's publisher, who were responsible for the cover. It's perfectly possible that they were influenced by the Bergman movie, though (I suspect it's more lily to be earlier works such as The Seventh Seal that Ken had in mind, though).

Missed you at the PNZ launch on Friday night!

best, jack

Richard said...

Hi Jack

Re Ken's book. I must get a copy. I haven't seen any other movies by Bergman although, in my sorting out of about 3000 books, I just put aside for myself a novel he wrote called 'Wild Strawberries'

I emailed you but possibly it didn't get through. I wasn't well and on the day I experienced a quite awful headache. I'd had a kind of cold cough running for three weeks but the Dr. - a local doctor who turned out to be from Croatia, and with whom I inevitably engaged in conversation about Rebecca West (she has two editions of her huge tome about Yugoslavia, which I mentioned, also that the English critic Geoff Dyer had recommended it and a local 'Dali' immediately gave the name of the book when I mentioned West's name (Grey Eagle, something Sheep or something...) , this she said: "Poor my country, poor my country.")

It was ascertained no temperature and as I had no trouble swallowing (I think she might have been fishing for evidence of a stroke, and she dismissed my 'the meninges' out of hand); meanwhile I looked at the fascinating diagrams of the heart and the mechanism for diabetes, commenting how I was always interested in biology, but particularly the beautiful diagrams, but not wanting to touch; "No, pathology is something you don't want to be involved in, cutting up organs..." And indeed, to me, living things are wonderful to see, because no matter how 'tormented', interesting and beautifully detailed: but the messy reality repulses me...Anycase, my lungs sounded good it seemed so perhaps no emphrysema or whatever so the conclusion was that there was nothing to be done! So I stocked up on more panadol and walked forth.

But I felt rather tired and thought I might lose the plot so I stayed home. Now I am starting to feel better.

Ted brought me a copy of the mag. I was quite inspired by Lisa Samuels' "call to arms" for poets...Very good to see her there. It is high time we got away from a lot of the tired old conventional old hat kiwi stuff that is written: too much. I have been doing my bit for craziness mind you

PNZ looks great.

I empathise with the girl who was bullied as my son was terribly tormented at high school and is affected today in his 40s by it. This is partly why he, resulting from a suicide or call for help attempt, had his eye knocked out by the police when they got it wrong...he went through hell.

Richard said...

Perhaps a quiet launch in parallel to Ken's in England (?) and I would get a copy. Otherwise I would get one online.
I have so many books I am now trying to sort out to make room though for an extra room here. And other books I want and other things. Still, it might be a challenge. I met Ken Briefly - when he visited home - we all met in town.
Any influence from Alisdair Gray. I started a book by him. It seemed interesting but I ran out of time. Ali Smith was talking about it in a book she wrote (a kind of essay, meditation).

I am looking through Leicester's 'Sequences...' again as I read Hamish's review.

It's a pity Blogs are somewhat on the wane as FB etc are generally pretty inane, even the stuff by artists and poets you would think were fairly intelligent. There seems to be a kind of urge to psychically 'commit suicide' on FB and I don't want to go near Twitter which Scott is raving about as the answer to everything...