Ducks, Newburyport

Ducks, NewburyportLATTICING One Cherry Pie After Another, An Ohio Housewife Tries To Bridge The Gaps Between Reality And The Torrent Of Meaningless Info That Is The United States Of America She Worries About Her Children, Her Dead Parents, African Elephants, The Bedroom Rituals Of Happy Couples , Weapons Of Mass Destruction, And How To Hatch An Abandoned Wood Pigeon Egg Is There Some Trick To Surviving Survivalists School Shootings Medical Debts Franks N Beans A Scorching Indictment Of America S Barbarity, Past And Present, And A Lament For The Way We Are Sleepwalking Into Environmental Disaster, Ducks, Newburyport Is A Heresy, A Wonder And A Revolution In The Novel.It S Also Very, Very Funny. That fact that this is a 1000 page novel in the form of a list of an Ohio homemaker baker s anxieties and neuroses, the fact that across these intoxicating and scathing and fear scorched pages the whole of contemporary America is encapsulated, the fact that a semicolon is never once wielded for the whole production, the fact that the housewife represents the lost moral conscience of an amoral nation, that fact that she refers to the ass as the sit me down upon, the fact that reading this novel will reaffirm your love of uncompromising maximalist masterpieces, and strengthen your loathing for humankind and its destructors, the fact that there are sub lists within the central list than a bucket of Rabelaises, the fact that interrupting the list is a narrative concerning a lioness whose cubs are stolen, the fact that this narrative illustrates in miniature the manner in which human beings punch everything in the face repeatedly and never stop, that fact that Arvo P rt is referenced four times, the fact that Brexit is not, the fact that a novel spanning over five times the length of the average novel and written without paragraph breaks with no linear structure or character development or pageturning plot is fucking entertaining that whatever piddle is being released from Random House this week, the fact that Ellmann has written the Great American Novel for our times, that fact that it falls to a swaggering small press to release this Leviathan, the fact that the publisher sent me a lollipop along with my review copy, the fact that the novel is coming soon, the fact that it exists and you will have the pleasure and privilege of reading this work of serious and searing kindness and humanity. Now re read after its longlisting for the Booker Prize I ve re read all the three books which I rated 5 stars Re reading this one was an unusual experience because my wife was reading it at the same time, although she was about 700 pages ahead of me Well, she was when I started I had it down to 300 pages when she finished.I completely understand why some people dislike this book I also completely understand why some people me included love it It has an internal rhythm to it that either repels or attracts If you are one of those whom it attracts, there is so much to uncover as you work your way through it.Sam Jordison, co director of Galley Beggar Press who published this book, said something in an interview recently that summed it up for me I actually liked the book even when I read it the second time, says Jordison So if the judges read it again, I m really hoping they ll see all kinds of new things in it and realise just how cleverly it s put together It s one of those books where you see in it every time It s such a huge flood of words that the first time you read it, you re completely overwhelmed, which is a brilliant, lovely feeling And the next time, you re like, it s all been planned out really carefully, which is just amazingly impressive My experience of re reading was a bit like my recent re read of Deborah Levy s The Man Who Saw Everything being able to look forward whilst reading as well as looking backwards makes all the difference On a first read, you inevitably can only look backwards at what you have already read and cannot anticipate what is coming.I can t quite put it into words, but the lioness story seemed a lot integrated to me on a second reading I noticed comments about the lioness missing her mother, for example And the final phrase of the book is enough to make you look back and re evaluate several things.I went in to my re read with a rather poor view of Leo and the narrator s father I have come out the other end convinced that I fell into a trap of having read too many books where husbands who appear to good to be true are and fathers turn out to be abusive I need to apologise to both men as there is no actual evidence of either of these things.This is a very funny, very sad book I enjoyed every page of my re read and I m glad I invested the time in going through this again.heavens to Betsy, boarlets, I don t know but they know,ORIGINAL REVIEWI m not sure I can do this I m completely sure that I am not qualified to do this Lucy Ellmann s Ducks, Newburyport is a big book in every sense of the word It is long, very long It is innovative It takes on big, universal subjects I ll tell you a bit about my experience of reading it I don t feel worthy to do any than that.It opens with a lioness a mountain lion important to note or you might get confused when she purrs She will come back into the story again and again, on a journey that is initially puzzling how does this fit into the main narrative, what s it all about but soon becomes emotionally engaging and then integral to the overall arc of the story.But the lioness sections are just one or two pages at a time and infrequent The bulk of the book is the internal monologue of our narrator, told without full stops in a sort of stream of consciousness that swirls around, often repeating thoughts and ideas, filled with a flow of word associations, sudden memories, ongoing worries, reactions to events, recollections of recent dreams etc., all marked by her trademark phrase the fact that , the fact that car crashes are up twenty percent since 2009, haw tree, buckeye, black walnut, hickory, butternut, the fact that Stacy s old enough to handle the road but the other kids aren t, the fact that a little boy was killed in his bed just the other day by a skidding car crashing into his house, Ben asleep, the fact that there are two cardinals right now in the lilac tree, brown sugar, She earns money by making pies She worries about her family She worries about the state of the world She has no time at all for Donald Trump She is scared by the gun culture in her country She worries about the environment She is deeply affected by the loss of her parents, especially her mother, when she was younger, although she says that at least they never had to know Donald Trump would one day be president, the fact that who would ve expected that, the fact that I always thought he was just some failed businessman who liked building ugly skyscrapers, and now he gets to rule the world, with a smartphone and that thin pad of hair on his head, grab em by the smartphone, You might think that reading 1000 pages of someone s internal thoughts with a continuous repeating verbal tick could get annoying or boring I am sure there are some people who will find it one or other of those, or both But I found it and engaging, and engrossing page by page It is often very funny when she writes a list of things we can rely on happening, she includes Jane Fonda will improve herself and write and books explaining how we can all be and like herAnd she brings joy to my pedantic heart with her concern about grammar, semantics and pronunciation some people will wrongly call octopuses octopi and misuse the word enormity and mispronounce February and library She doesn t tell you a story It is up to the reader to piece things together and work out who is who With some characters like her children , it is quickly obvious who they are But with others you have to wait for a few clues until the penny drops Likewise with her history it is revealed in a scattered fashion as her thoughts dance over her life events There are some things no spoilers here that seem very significant but just get a single mention, or maybe a couple of mentions, and things don t come in chronological order but are included when her random thoughts take her there.Behind the word play was it a cat I saw, able was I ere I saw Elba , we gradually get to know a very frightened woman At several points, I was reminded of Samantha Schweblin s Fever Dream and its concept of rescue distance how long it would take to reach your child in an emergency And there are many, many literary references through the book which I now wish I had done to keep track of , some directly referring to other books often Laura Ingalls Wilder or Anne Tyler, but many others, as well, including Jane Austen and sometimes, as with my memory of rescue distance just making me think of other books I have read and I don t know whether they are deliberate references or just my own random word associations So, for example the fact that trees seem in a different time zone from us, and they live so much longer than we do, but still, they are our companions, put me in mind of Richard Powers Pulitzer winning The Overstory and the fact that the sky is now peach, mauve, sky blue, gray, blue gray, shocking pink, orange, yellow and a pale creamy blue, all at the same time, brought back memories of a scene from the Booker winning Milkman by Anna Burns.You are on a journey when you read this book The narrator s stream of consciousness will suck you in It will make you laugh, it may well make you cry It could very possibly make you angry Some of it references violent events from America s past and it is not, on a few pages, very pleasant reading at all As you read her thoughts, you will read a heartfelt criticism of America s past and present, one that by implication spreads far wider than just America as it examines human motivations The human narrator shows us the inhumanity of man The non human protagonist in the much shorter parallel narrative shows us the humanity of the natural world.I would love to talk with others at some point about the pieces of information we all managed to glean and put together to form a picture of our narrator s life story I don t want to put my thoughts here as I think that would spoil it for others.I ll stop, although there is still so much to think about This is, quite simply, a wonderful book I appreciate that the length and the unusual structure might be off putting for some, but, based on my reading experience, the length is a joy rather than a chore and the unusual structure only serves to make it engaging and satisfying to read I really hope lots of other people will give it a go. Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2019Shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize 2019This is a brave, unique and ambitious book, so full credit to Galley Beggar press for stepping in where Lucy Ellmann s previous publishers baulked, and giving it such wholehearted support Having spent a week reading it intensely, I feel that this is a book that entirely justifies their faith in it.The core of the book is an interior monologue, written as a single run on sentence that is unbroken throughout most of the 988 pages, logging several months in the life of its narrator, an unnamed housewife, formerly of Connecticut and Illinois, now living in Newcomerstown, Tuscarawas, Ohio, with her husband Leo, a saint, scientist and expert on bridges, a daughter Stacy from a previous marriage, and their three younger children Ben, Gillian and Jake, the fact that the narrator s parents both died young, her mother was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, and almost drowned there as a small child trying to chase ducks, the fact that the narrator barely breaks even spending her days making pies and cakes to sell, and keeping chickens, and she is obsessed with the state of America, gun violence, the destruction of the environment and Ohio s history, not least the brutal aspects of it.The main narrative is interrupted at irregular intervals with the story of a cougar lioness whose travels crisscross Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio, and her three newborn cubs These are written in normal, even sometimes short sentences, but for me this does not stop the rest of the book being at least arguably an unbroken sentence, because these parts are like inserted pictures, and are not preceded by full stops or followed by capital letters This story does eventually start to touch on the events of the main monologue In an attempt to work out what percentage of the story these comprise, I made a list of their page numbers pages 11 12 before the start of the main monologue , 91 93, 113 4, 241 2, 307 8, 370 1, 406 7, 439 40, 471 3, 495 7, 516 7, 570 2, 591, 630 1, 672 3, 730 1, 742 3, 786 7, 828 30, 872 3, 885 7, 912 3, 925 7, 937 9, 949, 957 9 There are four other places where some white space occurs p168 a list of slogans that appear on a school neon sign, p199 a let them eat cake flyer for the business, p454 6 a list of freezer contents, some things are definite, like followed by an almost poetic list that runs from p645 672 At first the book, and particularly the monologue, seems infuriatingly relentless, plotless and random, but hints of momentous events start to appear after a while, gradually accumulate, and by the end, and especially in the last 50 pages a complex, dramatic and moving story has emerged, and the place of the lioness in the story is clarified, and the narrative technique also gains power as the reader gets used to its quirks Much of it is topical, and it is often very funny.The story ends at page 998, after which there is an eclectic and oddly charming 25 page list of the many abbreviations in the book, some of which are serious and others changed for comic effect for example MAGA becomes Make America Gyrate Again , followed by a couple of pages of apposite quotes.There are many words, phrases and topics that crop up repeatedly, for example The fact that there must be several thousand of these , Amish and Witness, one of many extended film references , bananas that are radioactive, bears, boarlets, crazee, Cy Young, dceaglecam, derecho, De Smet, Ducky Ducky, galoshes and the history of galoshes in the movies , goiters, hydrangea, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Little House, and Almanzo , macrophage, nanoparticles, nurdles Jake s favourite playthings , earworm song Mele Kalikimaka, pepperpot soup Leo s favourite , poffertjes, quotes from Jabberwocky, rose madder, Silent Spring, sit me down upon, me oh mys and other euphemisms, stink bugs, styptic stick, Swiffer, tardigrade, tartes tatin, turtles stuck in plastic beercan rings, wolf eels.Here are a few quotes that amused me the fact that it is kind of unlikely that there is just one Abominable Snowman, given the way biology usually works, and reproduction and all, the fact that after all there seem to be some Abominable Snowmen in Tibet too, the fact that if it s all one guy, he must be a real jetsetter, Abominable Jetsetter, Abominable love miles, rushing across the globe to visit his Abominable Snowwoman and Abominable Snowchildren, Abominable Snowpeople, Snowmom, the fact that nobody ever seems to see an Abominable Snowmom nursing an Abominable Snowbaby, the fact that I wonder if a litter of Abominable Snowchildren would be welcomed into our abominable school system the fact that Trump is like King Lear with all his tantrums, the fact that he even has a favourite daughter, the fact that people are lining up to play the Fool, Sparkle Plenty doll, Swanson TV dinners, the fact that at least King Lear could form a sentence, the fact that soon we won t remember what it s like to have a president that can do that, the fact that it s lucky King Lear wasn t in charge of any nuclear codes, Blow winds the fact that I just realized that when this monologue in my head stops, I ll be dead, or at least totally unconscious, like a vegetable or something, the fact that there are seven and a half billion people in the world, so there must be seven and a half billion of these internal monologues going on, apart from all the unconscious people, that s seven and a half billion people worrying about their kids, or their moms, or both, as well as taxes and window sills and medical bills the fact that I ll never know why she wrote that NAZI POTUS slogan on her shirt and wore it to school the very day they were taking the class photo, with Stacy right there in the front row, the fact that she says she didn t know they were taking the photo that day but she would have worn it anyway, if she had, the fact that she was all excited about it being in the photo, but then when we got the finished photo, they d blanked the photo out, so her T shirt no longer said SUPER CALLOUS FRAGILE RACIST SEXIST NAZI POTUS, it didn t say anything, for once, the fact that it just looked like she had a plain black T shirt on the fact that it s just like the way they get about immigrants, the fact that maybe they ve confused the lion with an undocumented alien, a non native incomer that entered Ohio illegally, newcomer, Newcomerstown, Cheechako, Dreamer, a Mexican puma, the fact that Newcomerstown was once called Neighbourtown, so I am really out of place here, since I am not a good neighbour Overall, this is the kind of book that thoroughly deserved its recognition by the Booker prize, and it has to be a strong contender for both the Goldsmiths Prize and the Republic of Consciousness Prize too Not an easy read, but an extraordinary achievement that rewards persistence Update 3 Sep I am delighted to see this wonderful book on the Booker shortlist Update 13 Aug three weeks after finishing it, this is still my favourite book of the year so far, so much of it still feels fresh in the memory.I am probably not the most impartial judge, but these reviews demonstrate that I am not alone in enjoying it Marchpane, Gumble s Yard, Neil, Jonathan, Ella, Robert, Kristian, Alan, Iris, MJ Nicholls, Leeand a couple of negative ones for balance Meike, Paul the fact this is shortlisted for the 2019 Goldsmith prize, Golden Syrup, Golden Retrieverthe fact that this is shortlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize, shortlist, shortbread the fact that this is longlisted for the 2019 booker prize, longlisted, longleat, lions of longleat, mountain lion the fact that madeleines are like little memory sticks, but when you bite into one you get closure, the fact that all her life that mountain lion has been alone and free and unnamed, and now she has a name and she s not free any, and that s sort of spooky, or is it just the thought of the way she lived before, so alone and hidden from the world, that spooks me, the fact that I m pretty alone and hidden from the world myself a lot of the time, but not the way a mountain lion, the fact that I think it d be great if the right to bear arms thing turned out to be about wearing short sleeves, the right to bare arms, or else maybe they meant heraldry, like the right to a family crest, the fact that you get to have a pennant with a lion rampant or dormant on it, armorial, armed conflict, Ben s book on heraldry, dormant, torpor, the fact that it would be really nice to see all these gun nuts just settle down and design their own coat of arms and get some plaques made, the fact that maybe they could have their own tartan too, get a whole Scottish thing going, a family clan, kilts, swordies, the fact that I wouldn t even mind bagpipes if they d just quit talking about the 2A for a while, and stopped killing people too the fact that I started reading Ducks, Newburyport in Gander, Newfoundland, the fact that I came home and my daughter was reading Laura Ingalls Wilder, the fact that Mr Darcy, Darcey, the fact that BTP, MTBE, CTE, KRW, AES are all things I discussed while reading the book which featured in the book, the fact that Mary Ellman wrote the seminal Thinking About Women and this book will become the seminal A Woman Thinking, the fact that this book is in the tradition of Joyce and Proust but with a fierce anger purely of its own, the fact that Edna O Brien said she had yet to meet anyone who has read and digested the whole of Finnegan s Wake except Richard Ellmann, the fact that unlike Proust Lucy Ellman s narrator bakes as well as eats madeleines, the fact that I finished the book and my daughter bought a madeleine back from her school trip to France, the fact that Open Carry, Daily Carry, the ability to carry off a 1000 page sentence, the fact that baking and shooting in the kitchen, Galley Kitchens, Galley Beggar, the gall to publish such a rule breaking fiercely blazing book, the fact is Galley Beggar, beggars, beg borrow steal but best of all buy a copy, the fact that Jane Austen, Persuasion, I hope I have persuaded you to read the book, the fact that the Lucy Ellman does so much better a jobhttps culture bo Now Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2019 This book has a hypnotizing effect, as it relentlessly rambles on and on and on in what is NOT a stream of consciousness or, God forbid, one sentence No one in their right mind has a train of thought like this midwestern housewife, the language is like an artificial, highly associative, playful collage of memories, thoughts, songs, names, and terms, like a psychological implicit association test that has shape shifted into a novel Our protagonist contemplates random everyday tasks and mundane occurrences as well as serious social and political problems like gun culture and Trumpism, and there is also one personally defining event or less at the end of the text, everything entangled in one massive, 1,345 page block of words Is this, as the blurb claims, a scorching indictment of America s barbarity , a wonder , and a revolution in the novel Oh hell no and can the PR people of publishing houses please get a grip, this silly hyperbole is cringe inducing.Let me try to put it Ellmann style The fact that this book has nothing substantial to say, the fact that this text relies fully on its faux innovative style, the fact that the associations are often simply screaming look at me, I m experimental fiction , for Pete s sake, Pete Buttigieg, St Petersburg, Putin, Trump, MAGA, Lady Gaga, WTF, the fact that this book loves itself very much, the fact that you feel like riding a dead horse after you got the gist of the whole thing, maybe ride to the Old Town Road, can t nobody tell me nothing This is not great literaure, you can t tell me nothing fast forward Dead forests, guns, the end Ducks, Newburyport feels like a very, very long prank aiming to expose serious literature Full disclosure I read the first 10 % and the last around 100 pages of the actual text there s an appendix , and then bailed, because, well, you got to draw the line somewhere If you want to read a great experimental novel, consider fellow Booker nominee The Man Who Saw Everything, pick up Nicola Barker s new book I Am Sovereign or wait for Jesse Ball s upcoming masterpiece The Divers Game A Novel. A sad satirical novel Ducks, Newburyport is built on contrasts Lucy Ellmann compares and opposes the life of a harassed housewife a product of modern civilization to the life of a lioness an innocent product of nature Alertness was her new mode, but the cubs easy slumber was contagious She was always briefly astounded, on waking, by their continued presence They troubled her, they were so needy if she died, they would die too, and soon And she would forget them But for now, she belonged to them They were not so much a conscious concern as the whole purpose of her being lives engendered by her body, created inside her and released through pain and panting upon the world She had borne them, and now she fed them with her milk They were part of her still.The narration is a housewife s inner monologue in the style of The Loser or Woodcutters by Thomas Bernhard Her soliloquy consists of uncontrolled comments on all her life and anything else that occurs to her the fact that it would make my day if Stacy would just put her clothes in the hamper once in a while, in that lion s den of a bedroom of hers, the fact that she hates me going in there, but sometimes I have to, the fact that pigs are cleaner than people any day, boarlets, the fact that hogs make their own beds, though I m not sure if they do it every morning, the fact that they re cleaner and smarter than anybody realizes, and don t deserve to be made into bacon, but everybody likes bacon so much, so it s a conundrum, it surely is In the age of informational pollution, the heroine s head is fraught with all sorts of trash but she possesses an academic vocabulary She is not too intelligent and na ve so she occupies herself by contemplating cultural clich s, popular movies, shreds of songs and television shows while culinary recipes and food are her special concern Although she mentions many books, aesthetically she s no higher than Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder which she admires and simultaneously ridicules its inanity and so it is with movies and all the rest.But whatever heroine thinks about, her thoughts are full of phobias, fixations and pathological anxiety what a terrible terrible terrible thing, the fact that it broke us, as a nation, but you re not supposed to say so, the fact that why would you do a thing like that to other people, I will do such things, what they are, yet I know not but they shall be the terror of the earth, the fact that being upbeat is so different from being beat up, the fact that the two things don t go together at all, the fact that people probably get beat up for being upbeat, or downbeat, the fact that either sounds unfair Be merry and happy Consume trash goods, consume trash food, consume trash culture, consume trash information, consume propaganda be an ideal consumer and bring up new consumers to relay you in due time apple turnovers, the fact that some people don t like introverts, the fact that everybody s got to be an extrovert these days or they think you re a psycho or something, compost, decomposing, the fact that a madeleine has so much butter in it it s really like a tiny pound cake Society is sick But all the societies are sick one way or the other all over the world all the time Now shortlisted for the Man Booker.I have a lot of respect for Galley Beggar, and admire them for having the courage to publish such an ambitious novel and congratulations on the Booker shortlisting My review is going to be a little unfair, but there are plenty of reviews here that present only the positive sides of this novel, and I can t honestly say I enjoyed this in the slightest.It s tempting, as many have, to review in the too easily imitated style of the book but having waded through 19,396 , the fact that s, I d rather not add So instead a recipe How to bake a Ducks, Newburyport pie cakeTake an ordinary piece of text We had a poor old erratic mouse in the kitchen once, that wasn t acting normal The poor thing kept going in circles Maybe the cats had brought him in and played with him and injured him, or maybe he was just a little crazee, and came in all by himself He didn t act like Edward Edward always behaved very sensibly Edward was brave An adult mouse can have a friendship with a human child Maybe he was cold and hungry, or thirsty, the crazy mouse, not Edward, and we should have given him some refreshments Really he acted like he needed to go to a mouse nursing home, or a mouse senior day care center We were going to try to catch him but he disappeared and I don t know what happened to him The cats probably gobbled him up in the night I don t think he was the same wild mouse we had last summer Search and replace all s with , the fact that , and capitalise the letter immediately after the fact that, we had a poor old erratic mouse in the kitchen once, that wasn t acting normal, the fact that the poor thing kept going in circles, the fact that maybe the cats had brought him in and played with him and injured him, or maybe he was just a little crazee, and came in all by himself, the fact that he didn t act like Edward, the fact that Edward always behaved very sensibly, the fact that Edward was brave, and smart, the fact that an adult mouse can have a friendship with a human child, the fact that maybe he was cold and hungry, or thirsty, the crazy mouse, not Edward, and we should have given him some refreshments, the fact that really he acted like he needed to go to a mouse nursing home, or a mouse senior day care center, the fact that we were going to try to catch him but he disappeared and I don t know what happened to him, the fact that the cats probably gobbled him up in the night, the fact that I don t think he was the same wild mouse we had last summer, the fact thatvoila, experimental prose look, no full stops and an upped word count in one simple operation A real example plucked at random from the many pages of Ducks, Newburyport Then season liberally with word riffs, use of a thesaurus and long lists the fact that all in all we re really just a normal Joy, Pledge, Crest, Tide, Dove, Woolite, Palmolive, Clorox, Rolaids, Pepto Bismol, Alka Seltzer, Desitin, Advil, Aleve, Tylenol, Anacin, Bayer, Excedrin, Vitamin C, Kleenex, Kotex, Tampax, Altoid, Barbazol, Almay, Revlon, Cetaphil, Right Guard, Old Spice, Gillette, Q Tip, Johnson Johnson, Vaseline, Listerine, Head n Shoulders, Safe Owl, Eagle Brand, Jolly Green Giant, Land O Lakes, Lucerne, Sealtest, Clover, Blue Bonnet, Half Half, Snyder, VanCamp, Wish Bone, French s, Skyline, Empress, Gerber, Nabisco, Heinz, Kraft, Quaker Oats, Sunkist, Purina, Vlasic, Oreo, Shredded Wheat, Arm Hammer, Jell O, Pez, Sara Lee, Chock Full o Nuts, Libby s, Pepperidge Farm, Fleischmann s, Morton, General Mills, King Arthur, Bell s, Reese s Pieces kind of household like everybody else, Houston, we got a problem, even with all these macrophages and tardigrades sneaking around, whatever they are, like everybody else Make use of the commas as part of the full stop replacement device, to create humorous ambiguity I couldn t do it when I was pregnant, the fact that I can t make Leo do it Move crates I mean, not get pregnant, the fact thatyou will need to use this particular ingredient at least 75 times in a full sized cake.Add the tiniest pinch of plot but use this for contrived world play E.g have your character get a flat tyre on a snowy day on the way back from the dentist, and be rescued by a character called Jesus Her amusement that there are people called Jesus can then be used to make a Jesus saved me joke that you can re use 15 or so times.Sprinkle in acronyms to taste, add over generous dollops of film plots and lashings of Little House on The Prairie syrup.Put in the oven for many long hours, and then remove the full stop replacement cake from the oven and and cover with a frosting of sour dream sequences.Break up any monotony with interspersed layers of a conventional pie baked from the story of a mountain lion albeit narrated from the lion s perspective , taking care to hide in one layer, like the sixpence in a Christmas pudding, a scene to be discovered by the Literary Review s Bad Sex in Fiction Award new animal sub division.And, having spent 1000 pages largely going nowhere well to the mall and to the dentist and back , add an anachronistic topping of a dramatic ending On my first attempt at this book read on publication I abandoned it and struggled to justify a star See below for my original review in spoilers The Booker longlisting and a 12 hour flight gave me the opportunity to revisit and finish it It certainly improved on a re read the personal sequences of the narrator s past were powerful and built up over the book s length, and I was left with an uneasy feeling that her husband was not the saint that she convinced herself he was as another GR friend Neil joked, you need to read between the Lions And, when not employed to excess, even the repetition works well.The biggest problem I had wasn t its length per se the 426,100 words I have read and very much enjoyed several significantly longer books it s the fact that it feels at times like length is conflated with quality For example, the publishers pre release campaign largely consistent of photos of the brick like time measured up against other books The quite literally pointless , the fact that device occurs, as mentioned, 19,396 times in the book That s 58,188 words, which enough for many writers to write a whole novel If they make an audio version, then given the three words would take a second to say, the unlucky narrator will actually spend over 5 hours simply repeating and repeating and repeating , the fact that The indictment of certain aspects of US culture is strong and timely I boarded the plane where I read the bulk of this book to breaking news of one mass shooting, and landed to news of another, the second in Ohio and close to where the book is set But as a European I found it rather reinforced my pre existing biases It would be challenging to read a book with characters presenting the opposite views to be fair Ali Smith s seasonal quartet has the same issue in UK politics And, if anything, the political analysis rather resorts to Trumpesque name calling, the narrators favourite Mary Poppins based example inspired by the Sun, but fortunately able to be sourced to the Guardian An example, which captures much of the strengths and weaknesses of the book , the fact that I think he s a big bully, coward, mean guy, third rate, just like Trump, Sad , the fact that he could be a lot of places by now, this shooter, not Trump, though Trump gets around too, golfing and holding rallies, the fact that they can t get him to stop holding rallies, the fact that he goes for the adulation, bigly, ululation, elation, election, erection, cracks, failed bridge, broken, flaccid, the fact that he could be right outside our house right now, the selfie killer, not Donald Trump, I hope, the fact that maybe the selfie killer, Trump, and the lion are outside our house, help, the fact that I don t know which would be worse, the fact thatUpping my rating to 2 stars.But I can t help but feel that if the movie sequences and Little House parts were drastically pared back, the dreams ditched, the lists and gratuitous repetition reduced the fact that used only to mark a genuine shift in thoughts rather than every time a full stop is needed, and the Hollywood ending removed, this would have been a fulfilling and much shorter book But then it likely wouldn t have got nominated for prizes and again all praise to the author and to the publisher for the courage to go with the unadultered version view spoiler Many of my GR and real life friends loved this novel, but this wasn t for me After 100 pages I decided to stop.There is a lot here and I think what one gets out of it will differ according to one s interest For me they include Korea and politics And indeed Korea South and North features throughout These are the first 5 mentions Your Views on North KoreaHillary, Qadaffi, Syria, North Korea, sisters, sororities, Elks, the Brontes, Phoebe and methe fact that some girls spread a nerve agent on the North Korean leader s brother, Kim Jong ill or somethingNorth Korean nuclear missilesthe fact that you have to wonder why slime eels have to be transported anywhere, but Koreans like them, the fact that they eat slime eels, friendly wolf eels, hagfish, Kim Jong Unshowcasing the word play Kim Jong Ill geddit It doesn t even make sense since the hanja for the il is which means sun and the respectful insight into different cultures Indeed I note that the perceptive review in Private Eye also picked up on the oriental stereotyping , which is also a feature when a Chinese character is mentioned Ming Dynasty porcelain, Mao jackets, terracotta warriors, Great Wall, wontons, pot stickers cheap toys and electrical goods Not surprisingly, Trump gets 137 mentions these are the first 10 the fact that Trump wants to take cover away from 630,000 Ohioans who took up Obamacarethe fact that Trump wants to get mining and oil drilling going in all the national parks, MAGA Rapid SSitty, SSSouth Dakota , James Mason, Trump Tower, beauty pageants, sexual harassment, ssssexual harassment obstruction of justice, which is something Trump gets up to all the timetrompe d oeil Trump l oeil, Trump liesnot Trumpthe fact that Trump called Melania a monster when she is pregnant, and maybe she is a monster, but he s one to talk, fat bullythat twenty foot inflatable rooster outside the White House really does look like Trumpthe fact that Mummy thought it was rude to comment on someone s appearance, but Trump does it all day, Sad the fact I had a bad dream about trump last night, the fact he admitted to me he couldn t cope with the joba highly insightful analysis, as we are less than 18 months away from the next US election, as to how Trump manages to appeal to his base and the strategies the Democrats might use to defeat him.And the book carries on in that vein 127 times for Trump.It s not that I dislike long books Knausgaard, Proust, Marias, Ferrante and Murakami have all written much longer novels albeit in most cases, published in separate volumes , but they are world class writers Addition I raised my concerns on the cultural point with the publisher They were gracious enough to send me a helpful reply Most importantly, the thing to say is that it s the internal monologue of a character It s the thoughts going through a particular person s head Crucially, the un policed thoughts What she thinks doesn t necessarily reflect Lucy s worldview Or anyone else s It s true to a very particular person of an age, in a place, at a time Those thoughts aren t always going to make us feel easy, or comfortable Fiction is here to confront us with realities and ideas we might not like, among other things She is not meant to be a perfect human being If you re seeing faults with her, that s because she s a fully realised creation.That s the most important thing to remember, I think Even so, if it isn t too absurd, and because I kind of love her, I do also want to defend this fictional person a bit I can t remember the context, but I don t even think the Kim Jong ill thing is a joke She s just trying to remember his name Nor is she likely to have a clue about hanja or be aware that people might get upset in relation to them I m now actually imagining her horrified thought stream as she realises that there are sensitivities there I also kind of feel like you ve answered your own question about the Chinese character producing clich s those are the first things that a person like this is likely to think of, don t you think Finally, it might be worth considering how race is one of the central themes of Ducks, Newburyport, and how the narrator s insensitivities are a vital part of this For example, her eldest child is part Indigenous and there is a pivotal scene involving her, a painful admission about feeling like an outsider, not White in a White family, and the narrator s horrified realisation of her own complicity, unawareness, and the fact that if you ll excuse the pun , she has simply had no idea So there is a very complex web here which is developed throughout the novel.I hope you carry on reading It feels sad for anyone not to be able to share in the pleasure of this book And I guess that s the final thing It s intended as a gift for anyone and everyone Except, maybe, Donald Trump hide spoiler I will sometimes enthusiastically purchase long novels with the best intentions of reading them soon but nonetheless they ll typically remain on my shelf for many years before I get to them But I was strongly tempted by the description of Lucy Ellmann s monumental Ducks, Newburyport and its Booker Prize longlisting buzz got to me so I put it on my immediate reading list While it s intimidating to read a 1000 page novel that s mostly narrated in one unbroken sentence, Ducks, Newburyport is also hypnotic for the rhythm it develops, the frequent Laugh Out Loud humour and the moving way it builds a portrait of the life of an Ohio housewife and her many anxieties living in America today Her story radiates a warm familiarity as we come to intimately know her sweeping stream of thoughts while baking a mountain of pies to sell and food for her family It also inspired me to bake cinnamon rolls for the first time and you can watch me demonstrate a simple recipe for cinnamon rolls alongside my video review here The narrator ruminates on a whole range of subjects from her personal past to her immediate family life caring for four children to local news to political divisions in America to global environmental concerns Usually these thoughts become mixed together and happen concurrently so she needs to periodically pause and clarify what she s referring to She s also affected by what s happening around her, the films she watches while baking and odd song lyrics which surface randomly in her mind The trivial rubs up alongside what feels dearly important This profusion of things running through her mind has a consistent rhythm so it becomes easy to follow and accumulates meaning as certain subjects, memories or ideas resurface frequently Thus they steadily acquire resonance and also take on a humorous edge as the barrage of thoughts will sometimes become jumbled and absurd There s something mesmerising and hypnotic about this constant flow of words It s addictive and so tempting to emulate Read my full review of Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann on LonesomeReader Two temptations when writing about a book like this the first is to imitate its crazee infectious style, adopt its motifs, and in this case start every phrase with the fact that, and the second is to translate it into something conventional, excavate its characters and plot, stripping away all disorientation, themes, and exaggerated logorrhea Generally, I loved this for the first few hundred pages, thinking of it like a modern Midwestern Molly Bloom soliloquy complete with a husband named Leo , a quasi American Bernhardian Knausgaardian exagmination of the quotidian, structurally similar to Matias Enard s Zone discontinuous single sentence phrase pile up, really separated by brief installments of comparatively conventional story , thriving thanks to competing conflicting forces that extrude and contract girth and great sentence length versus constant bursts of word association shorthand On the most American of page numbers 76 , the title s famous precedent from Lolita appears My very photogenic mother died in a freak accident picnic, lightning when I was three In this, the motif is introduced with a story about an enormous penguin and the response to it cool later on penguin, cool appears, and that s one of the ways a reader starts to have fun with this, learning how to read this, how to climb the sheer rock face of phrases without full stops or space breaks But there are plenty of handholds and little regularly appearing ledges that help you send this one it s not at all difficult reading, it s totally accessible, mostly because the tone style, the pitch of the language, is so even keeled, without pretentious poetic flourish or much variation equability s my A1 priority on pg 79 And of course there s the fact that, which serves as a sort of space break, a grammar, and is thematically interesting in a work of fiction which is essentially, like Enard s Zone and Compass, a Major Reference Work, a Wiki marbled novel for me, it s marbled, not larded that feels like a compendium of readily available facts copied, pasted, and if not necessary charged then at least propelled with some purpose But by 560 for some reason, soon after learning the meaning of the title it feels like a spoiler to discuss it because learning what it refers to was critical propulsion for me, really the only plot ish engine other than the story about the lion also seemed like its revelation came too early on page 504 around 475 I started thinking that it wouldn t be revealed until the end as a carrot for the reader to strive for , my reading accelerated somewhat through the primary the fact that steam of consciousness POV, looking forward to the short, interstitial, comparatively conventional segments from the perspective of a lioness Sometimes thought it was written by a computer programmed to emit phrases that somehow corresponded to an endless elaboration of Pi Loved it, rooted for it, recommended it, but then it started to seem inexhaustible and the system of associations too often returned to Hollywood movies actors Harrison Ford, Jane Fonda, Walter Matthau , environmental devastation and assorted horrors at the hands of corporations and men, as well as really recent Trump related news that was interesting at first, relevant, hefty, charged, but that dulled for me with repetition and exposure, as though the pathos and contemporary politics felt tacked on, pasted in, enough already, thereby effectively mirroring the emotional psychological overload pretty much everyone feels three years into the SUPER CALLOUS FRAGILE RACIST SEXIST NAZI POTUS era loved the bit about Stace s class photo T shirt In short, its game got played out for me a little beyond the midway point, I experienced negative reality overload, and yet there were still some 400 pages to go The whole antecedent correction thing also irritated me whenever it appeared not this, that But with so much time and enjoyment and interest already invested there was no way I d put it down I had to push through, albeit a little quicker than before, especially when the focus returned to movies, pies, environmental atrocities, town names, etc It s odd how in a novel like this, one that undermines conventional expectation of plot and character, it s exactly plot and character that shine through when they do appear, as though made valuable by scarcity The determined lioness had my total attention throughout because she passionately wants something particular Even the scrappy little submissive chicken coop mongrel that follows her seems interesting than the narrator s family, friends, and children, who other than Stace never really seemed to come to much life Leo, loving and benevolent foil for everything awful related to men, appears off stage throughout, an academic who specializes in bridges, which seems almost too thematically perfect in an associative novel But none of this means I wasn t in this one s favor, just that like the country it s explicitly about it comes with a mini American flag suitable for sticking in a cupcake and was published on July 4 , the gist is complicated, its glories and gore indivisible same is true for lionesses apparently.Two other semi major dealios at play in my mind while reading the author s gender and geographic residence I was attracted by this in part because it s a massive brick of text by a woman Women have written long novels I m pretty sure JK Rowling is a woman But when it comes to experimental unconventional mega novels, other than Miss MacIntosh, My Darling, which I own but haven t read than the first three pages of, it s been a male domain So I was interested in a Bernhardian mega rant long sentence from the perspective of a middle aged Midwestern woman who has led a pretty shark free, tornado free, hurricane free, cyclone free, volcano free, war free, bomb free , plane crash free, gun rampage free, rape free, murder free, electrocution free existence pg 703 , that is, her perspective is privileged and self aware she s a cancer survivor and suffering from health care costs but she s not a victim run by the author through a cruel fate wringer to make a single clear socially relevant point or maximize poignancy The author also was born and raised in the US but now lives in Scotland, so there s something there too, a sense of displacement or exile or criticism from afar that I liked sometimes thinking about as I read, the sense that the author is not the narrator although probably in many ways not NOT the narrator either But regardless of reductions related to current spatial occupancy and gender, since the vast majority of novels exist on a uniform and thereby Utopian and universal plane of bound whitish pages covered in ordered lines of blackish print, it s the author s sensibility and the reader s engagement and activated imaginative capacities that matter most At times I wished the author had supplied a narrator with range, especially when it came to cultural reference All the references, from Little House on the Prairie to The Sound of Music, made the narrator seem much older than someone who seemed to be essentially my age, so where was she in the 80s and early 90s Only watching Harrison Ford movies What about MTV U2 Nary a mention of wholly American exports like hip hop or Nirvana, let alone Tortoise one of the reasons I love Knausgaard, who talks about Tortoise in one of the volumes I guess I m talking about the point where relatability meets believability The fact that frequent cultural references are related to old timey not very PC prairie life LHOTP and Nazi Germany TSOM almost undermines believability because it seems contrived by the author to reflect on a contemporary Red State Lack of random references to wholly American late 80s hair metal like Ratt and Whitesnake made this less relatable and less believable than it could have been It almost seemed like the author had this story about an older like in her sixties or seventies Ohioan pie baker sitting around for a while but then blew it up with contemporary American politics and made her younger Really just thinking about this now a few days after finishing But the cultural references suggest an older narrator, or one who stopped paying attention to pop culture at some point when she would ve been in her late teens Another thing I was thinking about, early on at least, was how the hell could something this good not be published by a single American publisher It s North American publisher in September will be Biblioasis, which is based in Canada I shook my fist at American publishers But then by page 600 or so, with 400 to go, yeah, OK, I get it, I see how they respectfully declined But it s discouraging that there aren t at least a handful of indie presses in the US who might have seemed like natural choices for taking a shot at this, like for example an Archipelago Books that primarily published novels originally written in English by Americans even if they currently live elsewhere So, ultimately, I found this worth the time spent with it, exciting and rewarding and great at first, but then less so the longer it got it could ve been like 350 500 pages shorter and not suffered a bit, except who knows if I would have ordered a merely 500 page novel all the way from the UK Extreme length is essential to its marketing but also combined with minimal formal variety its equability, ultimately it probably won t be all that celebrated in the end I m talking about posterity, people I mean in a hundred thousand years, not ephemeral celebrations like 2019 Booker Award Finalist, although that s pretty great and I hope it wins But I d definitely recommend it to those who wouldn t mind getting a taste of this one s greatness without worrying about every single word how many among us have read every single footnote in Infinite Jest or every single line describing murdered women in 2666 and want to support ambitious individuated unconventional literature with limited commercial potential. This is quite an achievement which took years in the making and covers so much, the mind boggles I am so glad to have taken the plunge and read it A unique and hopeful story of how vulnerable we are in what has become a fucking bizarre world to live in 5 stars

★ Ducks, Newburyport PDF / Epub ✪ Author Lucy Ellmann –
  • Paperback
  • 1022 pages
  • Ducks, Newburyport
  • Lucy Ellmann
  • English
  • 22 September 2017
  • 9781910296974