If you would have told me that one day, I would actually like experimental fiction, I would have laughed. It seems that the more I read novels which explore writing from different angles, the more I prefer them to ‘conventionally’ written books.
Playing Possum, if I understood it correctly, is about a fictionalised murder that T.S Eliot commits. To complicate matters all the actions in the book form part of a movie. To complicate matters even more the text switches from the actual murder, the investigation, the making of the movie and the director’s problems that he encounters. All different perspectives are on the same page, broken up by brief sentences. There’s more. The reader also learns about Whitstable, the art of cinema, meditations on the name Tom, train trivia and a ton of puns, wordplay and alliteration, mostly with nonexistent words. Although the book is primarily an exercise in form, there is a small jab at how the film world is becoming more commercialised and it could also be seen a spoof of crime fiction..
Is this novel a handful? In a way yes but once things make sense, and they do you have a thrilling and inventive book. I have never read anything like this, the closest is maybe, Eimear McBride’s ‘A Girl is a Half Formed Thing’ but this one is more challenging and the text slowly veers into Pynchon territory a couple of times. Definitely a novel that benefits from second and third readings.
If you are a fan of unconventional novels then it is worth making the effort to acquire Playing Possum. At the moment it is on the tiny Aaaaargh Press but I think that a bigger publisher will want to take the risk in order to give it wider distribution. Anyway how can one not resist reading a meta-meta-detective tale?