Let's talk about texture (Christopher Bollen/The Destroyers)

Saturday, May 20, 2017

A few days ago I sat in this little abode of mine with a friend, Cyndi Reeves. She is a world-explorer and a writer, a teacher and a reader, and in my house of many books we were talking about something known as texture. The size and shape of sentences. The divots, pivots, pauses. The just enough and the artfully original.

There are many books that simply deliver the research and plot.

And then there are the books that rattle around in our heads because the language is like a lip of sun upon an active sea.

I was thinking about that conversation today as I read Christopher Bollen's new literary thriller, The Destroyers, a book sent my way by that extraordinary publicist, Michael Taekens (seriously, this man is something). I'd had a long week of reading for review and blog commentary (some 2,200 pages, perhaps more). I wasn't sure if my mind was capable of more words. And then I read Bollen's prologue.

Check this out:

The Greek island of Patmos was a wheeze of color: bleach-blond dust, scrub brush of wiry green, the wet-metal shine of water, and low rock walls blooming sinus pinks. As Elise ascended a hill she saw the monastery rise from the cliffs like a cruise ship moored on a mountaintop. Human bodies sere scattered along the beaches, silver and limp in the sticky heat.

Wheeze of color.

Bleach-blond dust.

Blooming sinus pinks.

Like a cruise ship moored on a mountaintop.

In none of this does Bollen appear to be reaching. This isn't decorative writing. It isn't overloaded, overlong. One has the sense that this is simply how that landscape would be received, by any one of us sufficiently detached from ordinary comparators and beats.

What ensues, in this novel, is a story of young men with childhood ties who depend on one another until the rich one disappears. Vanishes. Must be found. There are war games in these characters' pasts and many plot twists as the story unfolds. But time and again, in the fury of the plot, Bollen waits for language.

Thank you, Mr. Bollen, for caring so much about language.

Literary thriller, and the "literary" isn't just a marketing label here. It's real. It's texture.


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