Seren, £7.99. Order (free p&p) on 08700 798 897
Mr Cassini, by Lloyd Jones
A surreal sprawl of secrets from the master of modern Welsh literature
Thursday 04 January 2007
Lloyd Jones is to contemporary writing in Wales as Charles Bukowski was to the US. Erratic, rampaging, and infused with drug- and drink-fuelled visions, Mr Cassini (like its predecessor, Mr Vogel) is a sprawl of a book whose structure is at times infuriatingly absent, at others just as infuriatingly powerful. Rarely addressing the reader's perplexed questions, it chases a quintessentially Welsh quest in a variety of linguistic tenses. All is conditional on the arbitrary impulses of the human condition.
Duxie, a played-out footballer with a penchant for snooker, is in love with Olly. He is as bent on playing Hero to Leander, Tristan to Iseult, as he is on turning tragedy to comedy and back on itself again. Not that Duxie feels anything much: a man of frozen emotions and a wearer of gloves to conceal the hunk of mottled meat that is his burnt and useless left hand, he seeks out the mythic and mystical qualities of the left-handed Olly, sinister and obsessive, but as lovely as Leda - and every other maiden of snowy, feathery legend.
More than anything, however, Duxie is in love with the Welsh landscape and obsessed with Mr Cassini. This is not the landscape of guidebooks but of islands and lakes, snows and rainbows. Mr Cassini is the once-Italian funeral director, a paternal alter ego who manifests now as a giant rabbit, and now as an insistently buzzing fly in Stefano's café.
Jones is at his best with the outsized rabbits and metamorphosed flies. The central cast of characters remains as undeveloped as the tapestry backdrop of passing saints and sailors, seers and policemen, and there are times when the reader yearns for a little believability in both Duxie and Olly.
Jones is as catholic a reader as he is a writer. From astronomy to alchemy, water divining to bird watching, WG Sebald to Adam Phillips, quotations are rampant. Many are by way of diversion, for this is a book about secrets and the extravagant lengths we go to in order to prevent them from seeping out. And about what happens when they do, in a climax that gives poetic form to a personal apocalypse.
Despite the frustrations of two central personages who strain credibility, Mr Cassini is a book that demands to be read and re-read. Hidden apocrypha, kaleidoscopic rainbows and cabbalistic numerals notwithstanding, Lloyd Jones's use of language and emotion is second to none in contemporary Welsh literature.
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awardsTheatre
Grace DentChannel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
- 2 18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
- 3 US? China? India? The 10 biggest economies in 2030 will be...
- 4 'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
- 5 Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
Better Call Saul creator Peter Gould on the creative concerns of a prequel, season 2 and the mind-numbing realities of the small courts
Britain's Got Talent 2015: RSPCA investigating Marc Metral's miming dog after cruelty complaints
Star Wars 7: The Force Awakens trailer: The most extreme fan reactions on Twitter
Doctor Who film will definitely happen, leaked Sony emails reveal
The Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer has leaked – watch
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust