I like to finish things. I’m not one of these people who, when they eat a pizza, leave the olives on the plate. Just ask for a pizza without olives! It’s very rare that I don’t leave my platter clean. Chico Chica is a project I will see to the end though I’ve no idea what that end will be.
My doctor personally recommended The Sound and the Fury by James Faulkner. This was not for medicinal purposes. After he glimpsed the title of a book I was reading in the waiting room, he got talking about books and it turned out we share similar tastes. We’d talk so much that I would forget the reason I came in. Now Faulkner is often mentioned in the same breath as Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald so, with my slightly nerdy, box-ticking approach to literature, I felt compelled to find out what all the fuss is about.
My doctor mentioned that the first part was told by an idiot, that is, someone with a severe mental impairment. Louis de Bernières did something similar with Birds Without Wings, where part of the story was narrated by a seven year old girl in a childish language. But in The Sound and the Fury, the idiot’s language is normal but this doesn’t make the story easy to follow. Sequence is muddled up because Benjy, the narrator, doesn’t see time as a linear story but as a random sequence of memories. It’s as if Faulkner had emptied a jigsaw puzzle on the floor and the reader has to piece everything together. Ok, I thought, I can deal with that. After all, surely it’s only the first section which would be muddled. The other narrators are normal adults so their stories would be relatively clear. Wrong. If anything, the second section was even more confusing. There was only one thing to do, I went online for some guidance. Cliffs Notes and Sparks Notes are good for this. I realised this book is notoriously difficult. I became annoyed but left with no choice but to start the book again.
Now you may think I have the choice to throw the bloody thing away or gift wrap it and present it to someone I don’t like with the words: ‘This will change your life’. But there’s a dutiful and puritanical part of me that will make me always finish a book. Reading is a little like playing music. Pieces that give us pleasure we can play over and over again but we don’t grow as musicians. We have to challenge ourselves no matter how much frustration it causes.
My resentment and reluctance to start the book again was exacerbated by the demands of Chico Chica. We’ve been busy creating a new website, (in fact this blog is now part of it), and building relationships with London promoters who have the wit, style, taste and courage to book the Chico Chica show. And among these tasks I find myself wrestling with a literary Rubik’s Cube. Reading is normally a straightforward activity. We start and we finish.
And finish is what I did. The second half reads like a conventional novel. It’s a tale of a family without love. And it’s very good.
Chico Chica will be at Chico Chica will be at St Ants Jazz on 21st Feb: https://www.facebook.com/events/636394773108310/?ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming&source=1 Wednesday at 8:45pm St. Anthony’s Club The Red House 13 Upton Avenue (Corner of Upton Lane) Forest Gate London E7 9PJ