Welcome to Triple Choice Tuesday. This is where I ask some of my favourite bloggers, writers and readers to share the names of three books that mean a lot to them. The idea is that it might raise the profile of certain books and introduce you to new titles, new authors and new bloggers.
Today's guest is Irish writer Alan Glynn.
Alan studied English literature at Trinity College, Dublin, and has worked in magazine publishing in New York and as an EFL teacher in Italy.
His latest novel, Bloodland, was published in September by Faber and has just won Bord Gais Energy's Irish Crime Novel of the Year Award. I read it last week (review coming shortly) and thought it was brilliant.
His first novel, The Dark Fields, was published in 2002 and was filmed last year as Limitless, starring Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro. His second novel Winterland was published to critical acclaim in 2009 — I read it that same year and loved it.
Alan is married with two children and lives in Dublin. Without further ado, here is his Triple Choice Tuesday selections:
Not exactly a comfort read, but a book I go back to regularly is J. G. Ballard’s High-Rise. It’s one of his most chilling and perfectly formed dispatches from dystopia. As petty disputes erupt and cocktail parties degenerate into marauding attacks on “enemy” floors, the civilized, largely professional inhabitants of a 40-storey London tower block conspire in a gradual descent into madness.
Here, as elsewhere, Ballard sketches a complex human ecosystem that is held together by brittle social codes and the irresistible force of technology. It’s probably silly to call the book prescient, because everything Ballard wrote was a laser-sharp dissection of the world he lived in, but it’s amazing how 35 years on its examination of repression and impulse still feels like a very urgent warning.
I first read The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien in the mid-1970s. Like any self-respecting work of art from that period (even though it was published ten years earlier and written some 30 years before that again), the book did its solemn duty and blew my mind.
Told in the first person, it is a creepily intimate portrait of a nameless and twisted killer. The reader is taken inside this killer’s head and given access to its darkest, slipperiest corners. As the killer seeks to rationalize a horrific murder, he also succeeds in transmogrifying the external world into an image of his own guilt-soaked, terror-stricken and very definitely crumbling sanity. But what do you know? All of this with jokes. Because The Third Policeman is insanely, hilariously and subversively funny.
I’d never read anything like it and so great was its impact on me at the time that I can safely say I’ve never read anything quite like it since.
Maybe this book does have a wide audience, I don’t know, but it seems to me that it should have a really wide audience, and that we poor saps in this digitally-fragmented early part of the 21st century — bereft as we are of ideas and understanding, and overloaded with information and images — would be a lot better off for that. It is a book of short essays and aphorisms whose themes are pessimism, misanthropy, despair and the torment of being alive in the modern world.
Okay, so far, so off-putting, but what makes this book work is the beauty and power of Cioran’s mind, and the proliferating paradox that is the book’s magnificent fusing of the blackest subject matter with the most intricate, magical and beguiling of prose styles.
Thanks, Alan, for taking part in my Triple Choice Tuesday!
What do you think of Alan's choices? Have you read any of these books? I read High-Rise in September and found it completely fascinating in a dark rather scary way. The Third Policeman is in my reading queue (I bought a lovely Everyman's Libary edition of O'Brien's collected novels earlier this year), but Alan's description of it makes me want to pull it down off the shelf immediately for a read! Not heard of the Cioran book but it sounds like one I should seek out…