Saturday, July 12, 2008

breathing bubbles

Wow, want to spend $70 on the UK edition (an OOP mass market paperback) of Slow River? If so, here's the link for you. Then go get your head examined. After all, you can get this edition from for about $6. Or, if you're truly crazy, from the same webpage you can choose to pay some lunatic vendor nearly $200. For a used copy. Of a mass market paperback. I know I lack the collector gene and so sometimes miss the finer points of book collecting but, seriously, can anyone explain this to me?

I don't think about Slow River often, but after seeing this cover for the first time in twelve years, I fished out a copy and reread the first page. I liked it (thank god). So I thought I'd share:

At four in the morning its cold, deep scent seeped through deserted streets and settled in the shadows between warehouses. I walked carefully, unwilling to disturb the quiet. The smell of the river thickened as I headed deeper into the warehouse district, the Old Town, where the street names changed: Dagger Lane, Silver Street, The Land of Green Ginger; the fifteenth century still echoing through the beginnings of the twenty-first.

Then there were no more buildings, no more alleys, only the river, sliding slow and wide under a bare sky. I stepped cautiously into the open, like a small mammal leaving the shelter of the trees for the exposed bank.

Rivers were the source of civilization, the scenes of all beginnings and endings in ancient times. Babies were carried to the banks to be washed, bodies were laid on biers and floated away. Births and deaths were usually communal affairs, but I was here alone.

Reading this brought back vivid memories of Hull--the city I never name in the novel--where I lived for more than ten years, where the Old Town really does have names like Silver Street and Dagger Lane. I've talked about those times before, of course (mainly in "Layered Cities," an essay, and in my memoir), but something about reading fiction brings it all back.

I didn't name the city in Slow River because I believed--still believe--no one in their right mind would buy a book set in Hull. It would be like reading a novel set in Poughkeepsie. What do you think?

This blog has moved. My blog now lives here: