Review for Babylon

Babylon  Daisy Anne Gree *****

A caveat before I start: I’ve only read twenty pages of this book…but the whole book is only seventy pages total so I don’t think it’s a huge problem. And like they say, you can tell from the first page if you’re in the hands of an amateur or a master, so…

The first ten pages go pretty fast. The main guy, Daniel, is in San Francisco and he’s having problems. Not regular problems, but mental health problems. He’s schizophrenic and doesn’t know what 4:30 is anymore and everything around him is starting to get louder and the only way he can see out of it is suicide. So he gets in the bathtub, slits his wrists and fails. Next up, hospital for a paragraph then off to the titular Babylon [his hometown] in Texas.

I’m not sure what he’s trying to achieve by going back there, but the author establishes pretty quickly that it’s not gonna involve much human interaction. Babylon is in the desert, a nowhere place without any kind of centre, only gas stations and rogue houses. Or more like shacks…I don’t know if a place where someone hangs a dead chicken on the door deserves to be called a house.

It’s not like he doesn’t meet anyone, he does, but they are all a little odd. Not quirky, like in those indie romances, but odd as in these people actually seem real. And the oddest of all is Daniel himself. It’s a clichéd comparison, but he is in the same skin as Camus’ outsider, or Flan O Connor’s Hazel Motes, a man who is detached, an actor stuck in a performance he doesn’t want any part in. Only it’s more painful than that, as Daniel seems more aware of his predicament than either of them, and you really get the sense that this is not a worldview of his, but something weighing down on him. Something he can’t get rid of. Poor bastard.

Ok, so a comparison to ‘Wise Blood’ or Camus is asking for trouble, but you’ve gotta compare it to something. And the writing is very honest in this. It doesn’t seem to have an agenda…you know, this is the way the youth of the world are going or mental health is becoming normal and normal is insane…there’s no philosophy behind the character, just the depiction of a struggle. At least that’s what I got from the first twenty pages. Perhaps it tries to resolve the struggle later or build a theory out of it, I don’t know, but even if it does, it’s still an incredibly honest book.

The best lines I found that might give you a hint how good this is…and try to imagine them being said by someone completely devoid of attachment… ‘I knew he was a crackhead because he was smoking crack.’ Or ‘Who the fuck is this guy and what the fuck is 4:30?’ said by Daniel after he is woken up by his roommate late in the afternoon. A very, very good book.

  1. This review is fucking incredible!


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