the bird room by Chris Killen

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by Mike

the bird room
by Chris Killen
Publisher: Canongate

I am not a man. I am a hat stand. Her favourite hat hangs from my erection. Oh god, I should start again somewhere else.

Chris Killen's debut novel is a splintered story of torn relationships between Will, Alice, Helen and Will. Two Wills? Confused?
Well the outline of the characters tends to overlap so that at points new characters tend to emerge or for a fleeting moment you're not sure if some characters are the same person.

I want to disappear. I want to not be a part of things any more.

Chris fills the bird room with sharp prose, dysfunctional relationships, sex and Internet porn to produce a novella of emotional intensity. It's a bit like dicing up a Julian Barnes novel on a chopping board, adding a pinch of Mark Haddon's A Spot of Bother, throwing half of it away and then throwing what's left Jamie Oliver style onto a plate. It gets mixed up, is a bit mad, but isn't half good.

In fact it's better than half-good, it's excellent. Although I suspect an acquired taste. It could dazzle you and just as easy annoy the hell out of you. If you like a clear plot and a linear time line then:
stay away.

The plot hangs around Will finding himself suddenly involved with the confident, smart and sexy wild card, Alice. It's a threesome with paranoia though:

There is a glass girl in my head. If I ask too many questions she will shatter.

And Will is taken with her, not just for the sex:

'Lie down on the bed,' she says. Her voice is quiet. It's just the outline of a voice. I can hear the slipping off of clothes. I can see her silhouette, over by the blue rectangle of window.

but for something more:

What I want is cloudy and indistinct. It exists somewhere at the centre of her.

The book often plays on people being observed and recorded and in that it has a touch of Tom McCarthy's Remainder to it, but with a technological slant, the Internet, e-mails, video cameras:

Her eyes do not close but instead they widen and widen and widen, until impossible, until they are like huge black lenses recording me.

It all goes wrong when Alice shares how an ex-boyfriend talked her into doing porn. Will becomes obsessed with finding it and reality recedes into the background.

Enter Helen, with yellow hair and blue eyes, she used to be Clair, but now she is an actress. Well she isn't quite an actress, in fact Helen isn't quite a porn star, but she's heading that way and sells her body to voyeurs via the web.
Will contacts her and sets about reconstructing her as Alice and the elusive porn film of Alice which destroyed his relationship with her.

So a book about the cold, impersonal nature of porn...

It's very cold in here. Cold and impersonal, like coins in a till.

It's destructive influence on deeper relationships and how technology can blur the distinction between truth and fiction and reflect back to us a myriad of possibilities that ultimately lead to isolation and a loss of self.

She waits for something wonderful to happen to her. In her head, Will appears behind her. He puts his hands on her waist, slides them up over her tits and magically her nipples harden.
I'm fucked.
I want to disappear.
I want to not be a part of things any more.

Chris Killen was born in 1981. He currently lives in Manchester. The Bird Room is his first novel.

Take a look inside the book here.

Go to the bird room's site here.

And read Chris' blog here.


kathleenmaher said...

It could dazzle you and just as easy annoy the hell out of you.

Sounds like my kind of book, Mike. In fact, I often wonder if it's possible to do one without the other: dazzle and/or annoy.

Mike French said...

Yes I agree! And you would love this book Kathleen.