Thursday, September 14, 2006

"The Meaning of Night"

Melissa Katsoulis closes her review of Michael Cox's The Meaning of Night by writing, "Any adult who has secretly enjoyed Harry Potter will love this book." (What about those of us who have openly enjoyed Harry Potter?)

Anyway, the book sounds interesting:

The Meaning of Night is a gripping adventure story about a man’s thirst for revenge on the nemesis who has stolen his birthright. It is extraordinary because its literary influences are not only obvious, but integral.

The story is the confession of Edward Glyde, whose quiet life as a solicitor’s clerk and amateur photographer hides a murderous desire for the scalp of the annoying literary wunderkind Phoebus Daunt, and unfolds in a flurry of epistolary outpourings between London, France, Northamptonshire and Cambridge.

As in Wilkie Collins’s The Woman In White, the narrator’s florid account is qualified by sober testimony from a professional witness. Like Dickens, Cox leads us down London’s most foetid, dangerous alleyways where we meet a cast of shady characters with names such as Josiah Pluckrose and Captain LeGrice. And from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle comes a convoluted but ingenious plot.

The ill-fated Glyde is a sensitive bibliophile with a penchant for oyster suppers and night-time walks through London. Between trips to the brothel and the opium den he sorts through the papers of his late mother, a prolific writer of romantic fiction whose health was ruined by long hours at the writing table.

But as he delves into the past he discovers a betrayal far worse than he had imagined, and falls under the spell of a dangerous beauty named Miss Carteret, who has huge brown eyes and plays a lot of Chopin.

Click here to read an excerpt from The Meaning of Night.

Cox's biography and the making of the book is an interesting story in itself:
In April 2004, [Cox] began to lose his sight as a result of cancer. In preparation for surgery he was prescribed a steroidal drug, one of the effects of which was to initiate a temporary burst of mental and physical energy. This, combined with the stark realization that his blindness might return if the treatment wasn't successful, spurred Michael finally to begin writing in earnest the novel that he had been contemplating for over thirty years, and which up to then had only existed as a random collection of notes, drafts, and discarded first chapters. Following surgery, work continued on what is now The Meaning of Night, and in January 2005, after a hotly contested UK auction, it was sold to John Murray.
Click here to read a Q & A with Michael Cox.

--Marshal Zeringue