Tuesday, September 29, 2015

book review: The Wallcreeper

The backstory: The Wallcreeper, Nell Zink's first novel, was named a 2014 New York Times Notable book.

The basics: The publisher uses this Keith Gessen blurb as the summary, so I will too: "Who is Nell Zink? She claims to be an expatriate living in northeast Germany. Maybe she is; maybe she isn't. I don’t know. I do know that this first novel arrives with a voice that is fully formed: mature, hilarious, terrifyingly intelligent, and wicked. The novel is about a bird-loving American couple that moves to Europe and becomes, basically, eco-terrorists. This is strange, and interesting, but in between is some writing about marriage, love, fidelity, Europe, and saving the earth that is as funny and as grown-up as anything I've read in years. And there are some jokes in here that a young Don DeLillo would kill to have written. I hope he doesn’t kill Nell Zink."

My thoughts: The Wallcreeper has one of the most memorable narrators I've encountered. Tiffany is hilarious and terrible and brilliant and honest: "If I have one talent in the world, that's probably it. Looking innocent enough to make whatever it is I'm doing appear legal." There are some terrific jokes I loved, like this one: "'I was supposed to go to Bryn Mawr after my junior year, but it was too much money, so I took a scholarship to Agnes Scott.' He shuddered appreciatively." I assume there are many more jokes I don't get.

I admit: I was disappointed to discover the titular wallcreeper is a bird. Given the cover and the title, I presumed something very different. I still love it, however, particularly as I was familiar with the story of how Nell Zink came to publish this novel. (The short version: she and Jonathan Franzen began corresponding because they are both avid birders.)

I finished The Wallcreeper months ago, and I'm still thinking about it. I'm still not quite sure what I think about it as a whole. There are moments I was convinced it would become my favorite novel. There were also moments I found myself wondering what I was reading, and I love The Wallcreeper for being simultaneously genius and off putting. Ultimately, as a reader, I've resigned myself to having conflicting opinions about it. It's brilliant, and it's hilarious, and it's sometimes bizarre. It's unique and beautifully written, which in the end, is enough to satisfy me.

Favorite passage: "She wanted to be sardonic but conveyed only vain indignation. Incapacity for irony was another thing keeping her from coming across, where Stephen was concerned, as anything but horny."

The verdict: The Wallcreeper isn't for everyone. Zink's writing left me breathless. At times I loved this novel. At times I found her choices bizarre. In the end, I liked it, and I wanted to talk to everyone who read it. It's a book that begs to be dissected and discussed.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Length: 200 pages
Publication date: October 1, 2014 
Source: library

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy The Wallcreeper from Amazon (Kindle edition.)

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1 comment:

  1. I hadn't heard of this one, but it sounds intriguing. Beautiful writing on the bizarre kind is my sort of thing!


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