cover image Solar Bones

Solar Bones

Mike McCormack. Soho, $25 (224p) ISBN 978-1-61695-853-4

The latest from McCormack (Notes from a Coma) is a beautifully constructed novel that blends Beckett’s torrential monologues with a realist portrait of small-town Ireland. The book opens with short, fragmented descriptions of the “systolic thump” of a church bell heard by a man, Marcus Conway, standing in his kitchen. He is a civil engineer and a one-time seminary student who lives on the west coast of Ireland, at “the edge of this known world.” Waiting for his wife and children to return home, Marcus is struck by the “twitchy energy in the ether,” mystified at being “swept up on a rush of words” and bombarded with “a hail of images.” Free of periods, the one-sentence novel is comprised of Marcus’s unceasing reflections and recollections, some lyrical and tender, others caustic, on his childhood, family, politics, and local building projects. He marvels at the miraculous construction of the world while feeling a sense of foreboding at its imminent unravelling. Bodies, minds, buildings, financial systems, the civic order, and the universe itself—“the whole vast assemblage of stars and galaxies in their wheeling rotations”—all seem poised of the brink of collapse. As Marcus waxes eloquent on everything from tractor parts to concrete foundations, the novel’s suspense derives from the mystery of why this “strange” day—All Souls’ Day, as it happens—occasions such an “unspooling” of the mind. This is an intelligent, striking work. (Sept.)