Thursday, 30 July 2009

Dial M For Monkey

I have often wondered where the connection lies between Flash and humor. Now I know. Adam Maxwell's 'Dial M For Monkey' is great fun, very English, wonderfully compact and deceptively simple. The writing never over-reaches itself but remains elegant, original and well-framed.

While the cover and the blurb gives the impression that Maxwell relies on shock-effect to get his ideas across, I don't believe that this is especially the case. His key thing is ideas. Each of these tales pivots on a single, powerfully imaginative idea. Reading the set, I consider Maxwell to be the kind of writer who constantly imagines the unusual behind the ordinary. The most congenial aspect of the book is the way that imagined explanations are used to impart a sense of wonder to the mundane. It is tempting to give examples, but that would ruin the book for the next reader, as these stories are almost entirely based on their core ideas. That's not to say, however, that the writing, phrasing and sentences are not fine in themselves. There's a lot of description here that leaps off the page with its originality and subtlety.

More than a few of the tales rely on first person narration, meta-comment and a kind of looping structure of the cliff hanger sort: 'Here I am in this weird situation, now how did I get here?' It's carried off so well, though, that it is a joy to read. It may even become something of a trademark. Hardly a dud in the pack - though one story did rely on a revelation that I have read elsewhere, in Ian McEwan's, 'The Child in Time', I think. That time it involved a strap repeatedly hitting the wall of a train carriage...

Witty. Stylish. Fine spun home humor of the top-drawer sort.

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