Book review / Roll over, young Holden
Name The Baby by Mark Cirino Phoenix House pounds l5.99
Sunday 03 August 1997
Cirino pays homage to The Catcher in the Rye, and, as with Salinger's novel, much of Name the Baby's power lies in its narrative voice: colloquial, lyrical, brutal. On kissing a woman during his whisky bender he says, "I hoped the whole time that she was tasting the Trident [chewing gum] and not the puke, I mean that's my idea of urban chivalry."
The character, a skinny Blues harmonica player, hates "fakes", and, most of all, himself. "Me, I've got some kind of permanent scowl attached to my forehead like a birthmark." He can be cruel. One of his digs at Leonia while she was alive was that she'd proof-read a suicide note. But we ache for him. Even seeing is a struggle for him. On the dance-floor, "the strobes from the ceiling are wrestling with the precious metals around her neck." Cirino draws us so deep inside the narrator's head, we feel not just sympathy but empathy; yet we're also pushed away. Much of the book is addressed to "you", which challenges the reader's position as voyeur.
The style seems rambling, but Name the Baby is tightly structured. Recurrent motifs - an Amtrak train, a cemetery's headless statue of Christ - are used sparingly to potent effect. Although key revelations are foreshadowed, they still steal up on you. The author's inconsistency with his tenses is evocative of his narrator's need both to come to terms with the past whilst putting it behind him so he can go forwards.
The book's ending is ambivalent. There is hope. But the narrator picks up a copy of Ishiguro's Remains of the Day, which suggests he might have lived his most promising years already. Mark Cirino is only 26. This is a horrifyingly mature and beautiful debut.
Game of Thrones
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Hair loss explained: How and why men go bald
- 2 Game of Thrones season 6: Jon Snow theorists believe the Stark may have a twin sister
- 3 Artist takes LSD, draws herself over different stages of the 9-hour trip to show its effects
- 4 A pint of water every day is the key to losing weight, scientists say
- 5 Russia 'accidentally reveals' number of its soldiers killed in eastern Ukraine
Game of Thrones season 6: Jon Snow theorists believe the Stark may have a twin sister
Artist takes LSD, draws herself over different stages of the 9-hour trip to show its effects
Suicide Squad's Margot Robbie: Jared Leto's now more petrifying when out of his Joker make-up
Novel Scarlett Johansson tried to ban, Grégoire Delacourt’s The First Thing You See, to be published in UK
The Girl in the Spider's Web, David Lagercrantz, review: Stieg Larsson's heroes return in a thrilling new intrigue
Dresden riots: Protesters in Germany attack refugee buses shouting 'foreigners out'
France train shooting: US soldiers speak of the moment they stopped gunman and 'beat him until he was unconscious'
Labour leadership: Jeremy Corbyn accused of 'deluding' young supporters with 'claptrap'
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith calls for urgent ESA overhaul as part of drive to cut down welfare costs