15 thoughts on “Knucklebones – Marni Scofidio

  1. IMG_3645
    Pages 6 – 25

    “Giving books with five-star reviews one or two stars to bring down their ratings made her feel warm inside.”

    I already seem to know 53 year old Welshwoman Daere Synnott as if I have known her all my life. Not that my half-Welshness helps me out there, never having lived where she has lived, me in England, she in Wales. No, what helps me is a tactilely tractable and nicely engaging style of description. I do not intend to itemise the plot of this book but mainly adumbrate its effect on me as I gradually submit to its already captivating grip. But I will start here by itemising some deft moments in the portrait of dear Daere, following the Welsh glossary:-
    Another’s pre-Tarot gamble involved in her past as a child in 1970 when coerced into the shed by a pillar of the community. And now in 2013, her own Tarot habit, her shopping for own-label goods in Aldi, the man in Aldi who counts baked beans in a tin by shaking the tin, her demanding mother Edith for whom she spends her life caring in the flat with noisy neighbours upstairs, Daere’s EBay habit which is part of her wooing of the local postman Sam by means of his being forced to knock with the parcels, her DVDs of Strictly Come Dancing, and her speculation of a different family background for herself involving Anita Manning, Tim Wonnacott and Charlie Hanson. I know exactly what she means!

    “They couldn’t hurt you if they didn’t know you were there.”


  2. IMG_3651Pages 28 – 47

    “, never to litter. Litter not,”

    Two months later.
    Daere and her mother Edith have a new neighbour to replace the noisy ones, whom we meet before Daere does, maybe just as noisy, as she, this new neighbour (Clary), has a special needs child called Felix about to live in this social housing after being in a woman’s refuge…. I love the way these people are built up with telling modern details. This has a literary power, evolving a portrait of our times, with all its fallibilities and suspicions but often with intrinsic care from simple folk to simple folk. And focus on things, like litter, a stray fag end, as well as lack of focus often on big things. I noticed a reference to Virginia Woolf in connection with Clary. Synchronously, I currently happen to be real-time reviewing THE WAVES by that author. And there is a Sea Road in this Welsh town. Much else going on. A busy book, as well as a feel of it being stylishly laid back, too.

  3. IMG_3653Pages 48 – 68

    “People are crazier than they used to be.”

    You can say that again. Meanwhile, we learn more about Clary and Daere, now in interface with each other, the former with her loved Felix (Flea) an unpretty child based on first impressions of reader and Daere, at least. Daere equally caring for a dependant, her elderly invalid mother. Both women whose name is often mispronounced, both, I sense, superstitious or psychic. But with telling differences, too. I feel the literary and horror genres are now beginning to blend seamlessly. And I am intrigued by Clary’s reluctance not to name her errant and abusive man from whom she hides here in the back of beyond near Sea Road. And that painting above is not painted by Richard Dadd, I somehow find myself wanting to say out loud here based on a random, possibly errant, instinct of mine. And who is the ‘attic dweller’ who shares this building of flats with both women?

  4. IMG_3659Pages 69 – 93

    “Like a scarecrow he slouched on the wall, a patchwork of bones and flesh, all angles, no generosity.”

    I know the sort. Brilliantly, worryingly conjured. Clary’s man against whom she has a protection order. Near Ocean Street, I note, as well as Sea Road. There is half-bonding, half mutual reviling between the two women in face of this man, their preoccupations now bespoke for this book’s deeply enthralling and unpredictable audit trail. Clary’s son, Daere’s mother, a caring for similar human-things? Worrying, again. Constructively so for those of us who like somehow to enjoy worrying fiction. Those of us nearing ‘the lie-in of all lie-ins.’IMG_3660 Cinematic, too, in a seedy sort of Beckett way. Or Pinter? I was merely bemused about the prop of Clary’s mobile and the reason given to us for its staying untopped-up. And much else, including the WPC at the local nick. A town that is becoming Scofidio’s genius loci.

    “Summer sunshine in Wales never lasts.”

  5. IMG_3663Pages 94 – 116

    “He loved wood, the fact that it lived, that it had patterns,..”

    Back to the drawing-board or a new character organic with what went before? You decide. For me, it is organic. This book is full of things, like picture frames from Wilkinsons and supermarket delivery slots; it is a living place called Ffrynt. It sounds a bit like Clacton where I live in Essex, a seaside resort of a certain ilk. Down the road from here is another town, Frinton, one that is not like Ffrynt at all! Another synchronous name-wordplay in the book: Ruffalo with Buffalo. Baffle with bullshit. IMG_3664To Clary’s mother’s town-backstory of an info-dump from the Internet making me think back to what I said earlier that the horror genre is blending seamlessly with a literary work. One of them is now insidiously trying to break or mend those seams or replace the seamlessness with something else – ineluctably to prove which is stronger, or more likely that they are not differentiable at all.

    “Well if the synchronicity of that doesn’t call for celebrating…”

  6. Pages 117 – 135

    “‘I play in a band called Captem Cariad,’ Sam explained.”

    An unannounced synchronicity?
    The postman always knocks twice. But for whom?

    Just an obliquity, my self-amusing doodle of critique:
    Richard Dadd working on ‘Contradiction: Oberon and Titania’ (1854/1858)

    Meanwhile this is essentially a modern ‘Britain has Talent’ watching soap with ordinary people unselfish-consciously acting out a Pinter play. Pinter as Painter. A Welsh horror soap?

  7. IMG_3671Pages 136 – 160

    “Barefoot in the kitchen,”

    How can you love someone to pieces, someone asks somewhere. This consuming book seems so far to be about the sincerity and blindness of love as an oxymoron. Are we seeing the distinction correctly? I do not wish my reference to Richard Dadd the painter to muddy the waters. It’s just a skirmish of one reading mind, mine. Clary’s ex-partner is real, believable and monstrous. He is nothing to do with painting. Or even Mallory’s drawing-board? Back to that oxymoron of love, is there a difference between loving a “mong kid” and a dysfunctionally senile mother? Meanwhile, we seem led towards a view of Daere, the neighbour downstairs, that if I told you its details, would spoil the oxymoron. Suffice to say, the portrait is powerful. (The tarot partitions of this book, notwithstanding.) As powerful as the evocative conjuration of a music club and its music and its denizens.

    “All that for ten seconds of pleasure.”

  8. img_2619Pages 161 – 177

    “Sam flipped his tie with both hands, like Oliver Hardy.”

    The battle ensues between horror and something else, but now the seams seem not within literature alone but within life itself, within our era, as we know it, to the backdrop of thump thump thump from a imageneighbour’s party where nefarious things go on that already go on on-line as insidious echo, crips and all. The characters continue to develop, some with misunderstandings of love, that oxymoron of love now a creature trying to douse a ‘Creature’ with perceived kindness beyond the ulterior motive – and we do well to differentiate ugliness from beauty. Normal human jealousy and coolly manic obsession. There is nail-bitten suspense, too, depending on mobiles, wrong numbers, available taxis, and what we see as truth, so different from what the characters think they see. Or what all horror writers see, like those named in the text.

    “If you blocked out its deformities, it looked so beautiful,”

  9. IMG_3686Pages 179 – 203

    “Then it was the use of ‘Ms’. Ugly sound. Like a bee with a speech defect.”

    More drawing-boards of sorts, not only Clary’s, Mallory’s and Richard Dadd’s, but also now the daughter of a social worker (the one trying to visit Daere and her senile mother), a girl who has “drawed” a “pincher’…and Daere herself with a clumsily prophetic collage of her Tarot.
    Passages inclusive of but not exactly “chocka” with texting. Yet full of typing. And machinations, plot tensions and accretive characterisations continue to entrammel the reader.

    “And Anita thought happiness was the belief that no matter what happened in your life, you were equipped to deal with it.”

  10. IMG_3694Pages 204 – 229

    “…everyone found what they needed with a finger-swipe…”

    Back to the drawing-board, organic or vestigial? You’re on your own now, O companion-reader-alongside-me. Such a plot twist now occurs, or SEEMS to occur, transcending prior omniscience as well as a suspension of disbelief regarding knowledge of the Internet, Amazon reviews, mobiles, smartphones and texting. I am really enjoying this now horror-prevailing book. The heart of the stench, perhaps, notwithstanding.

  11. 481E3AF4-59FB-4CC5-B9B1-F96A573D7DA2Pages 230 – 251

    “That’s where my art desk is going.”

    These pages trace the nature of “a learning curve”, in more ways than one, the good and the bad in life alike, including your own as you read the book. I wonder whether to mention the rather rarefied or irrelevant observation that the author of ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ has a surname a near anagram of Clary. Or that Daere, among other things, tellingly needs to replace her shower curtain. That libraries are for silent reading or using eBay, not clumsy machinations of romance. And that there are ludicrous expectations of the containing volume of shopping trolleys…..
    “…’it’s complicated’, because it never is unless you want it to be.”
    Whatever the case, at least part of me is helplessly entrammelled by this book and I need to finish it so as to escape properly. Almost enjoying it too much, if that is the right word. Certainly enjoying the process of gestalt reviewing it. The nuclear option, or the knucklier one?

  12. D99D2064-CC7F-4ED1-8B25-B458A3A6CB24Pages 252 – 287

    “From pain, a plan: in every cloud.”

    This has the suspense of a Hitchcock blockbuster now arriving at Ffrynt Carnival together with the subtlety of stitched tropes. We follow what is happening, the interactions built up from the book’s hinterland. 1981752C-86FC-4EDD-A0EA-9298F8E75A1C The gullibility, the temperamental mobiles, the “schmeant, meant” of looks, casual and deliberate. I feel I am some sort of Querent, as I unshuffle this book’s cards dealt out. Following “a scattershot nature” as well as a methodical plan of pain. “a sound like clicking bones”. Bottles of Night Nurse. And a remorseless cruelty of means needed to reach inchoate ends.

    “Sometimes it seems like my entire life depends on a series of people who can’t be left on their own.”

  13. C6013EA7-A34E-4C42-A301-42AB142FA299Pages 288 – end

    “, it’s dead fiddly.”

    This is the second day in a row I have had some sort of synchronous run-in with Queen Victoria (see here), but the word my Welsh father first taught me, ‘Hiraeth’, is an important catalyst and that word is used in these pages and imbues the book in hindsight. It means more than it means. It draws you to serendipities, as well as memories that may not even be your memories. Homesickness and eventual emotional healthness, whatever the symbolic stages of the cards dealt. Fiddle-faddly, too, a word my English mother used. BA12E1DC-53B6-4E4E-9401-0CAB4FBED367And here, meanwhile, we continue with the exciting cinematic suspense and dénouement “played out in bloody Technicolor…” plus the psychic illusive ventriloquism of Horror, with a capital H, but who or what ventriloquises whom? The future mimics or uses the voice of the past while the rattly bones that were once upon a time deadly throw-dice of abusive chance are now embedded in Fate’s structured slopes as knobbled stops to prevent further sliding. Not really “a Valkyrie on fire”, or if so, eventually a hurtling distaff of hope, a hope that the innocent can prevail. To beat Fate at its own slip-slidey game. And to know that love will eventually outweigh its opposite.
    “…all the time she’d known The Creature, it had never looked so beautiful.”

    A page-turning novel-reader’s novel. A Horror novel that it never tries not to be; in fact it drops names. A work that is dreamcatching of some literary force. Lifecatching, too. And tantalisingly elusive and allusive, words where you hopefully find the Querent. Mighty or not.

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