Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Book Review: 'Cursed' by Jeremy C Shipp

The thing about Jeremy C. Shipp is that:
  1. You never quite know what you're going to get;
  2. When you get it, it's hard to know how to take it in.
Cursed, Shipp's latest novel, is:
  1. No exception;
  2. No disappointment.
Once again, it has taken me a good couple of weeks since finishing Shipp's latest book before I have been able to sit down and put together a coherent review of his work (For a bit more background, check out my review of Vacation). There are several reasons for this. Shipp's writing:
  1. defies definition;
  2. cannot be boxed in the ragged old cliches of other more pedestrian authors;
  3. gets inside your skull and messes with your head.
It may also be because I was:
  1. looking at my watch;
  2. scratching the mole on my left arm;
  3. thinking about what I didn't say.
If you're wondering what the hell is up with the lists, I'll leave that to you to find out. Cursed is that sort of a book. I can't say too much without giving things away.

From the outset, Shipp drops us into a world slightly skewed and fundamentally wrong. Chapter by chapter that world tilts further into madness, as our protagonist Nicholas struggles to undo the curse laid on him by an unknown villain, for reasons unknown.

Shipp weaves an abstract tale that questions the nature of family and community in a world where we grow ever more estranged from each other, rendering the breakdown of our social constructs in the isolation of his characters. In their efforts to find meaning in lives which have grown more and more pointless, Shipp's characters, in their twisted version of a reality, do what we so often do without facing up to it: they hurt each other.

Once again, Shipp has written a book that cuts to the core of who we, as people, really are, and how we struggle to confront our emptiness, our grief, and our fear. In Cursed, we see characters who have fallen into the very blackest of despair, yet they find ways to battle through it regardless; sometimes, regardless of who gets hurt in the process. They put on brave faces, they write lists, they surround themselves with trinkets and memories of lives now faded, and they huddle to each other for the sake of not feeling so lost and alone.

Shipp has truly come into his own voice in this most idiosyncratic of books. Despite his experimental style and unorthodox structures, Shipp still tears at the reader's heartstrings as Nicky and his friends spiral deeper into the insane haze of the Curse. Cursed also has its uplifting moments, and plenty of laughs, if only in the blackest of humour. The sort of laughs that come because if you don't, you might just have to cry.

Cursed is definitely a book worth laying your hands on. I'm going to rate it at 4 Stars, with a bonus point for innovation.

Cursed will be available from October 30th, and can be ordered from his website.

1 comment:

  1. Just a quick little addition to your very well done review. I've spoken with Jeremy Shipp, and will be giving away a personally inscribed copy of his book on Dec 4th. The Same day his story "Sin Earth" is made available on the podcast. The contest began today but it's not to late to get in on the fun. Check my podcast website for more details. www.shadowpress.wordpress.com