‘I take issue with foreboding,’ said Dinos Tierotis in an interview several years ago. ‘The sense of an inevitable disaster coming my way ruins so many stories for me. If I’m reading a novel and the characters embark on a long journey through a dark forest into unchartered territory, I toss the book away. I know what’s going to happen. Madness will descend, men will die and “civilisation” will take on all sorts of depressingly nuanced meanings. Everything we were warned of will come to pass, in agonisingly slow motion. All we will learn is that we shouldn’t have tagged along when the destination was so obvious from the start’.
Now for the counterpunch. After two books that offered cautious updatings of Greek myths, Tierotis has finally fixed his uncertain sights on the modern canon. There are no points awarded for guessing the primary source of his new novel: Heart of Sparklyness. Nor should it take too long to imagine the manner in which Tierotis ‘twists the familiar premise of the modern novel in smart and unexpected ways’. To simply turn something on its head is not exactly ‘smart and unexpected’ is it?
Or is it? I admit I’ve never been the greatest fan of Tierotis’ work. I thought his debut, Perseus and the Pepper Grinder, had its moments – but there was very little to love in The Golden Bomber Jacket, its desultory successor. Tierotis has, however, shown flashes of talent in shorter literary forms – with his pamphlet, The Tissues of Lies, receiving a surprisingly positive critical reaction. He has the ability, it is generally felt, to be a sharp satirist. He simply needs to rein in his leanings towards uninspired silliness: to understand – and safely navigate – the difference between an loose spoof and a penetrating satire.
This, then, is the question: will Heart of Sparklyness prove to be the making of the man? The early signs, as I have already suggested, are not good. The idea behind the book, as expressed in my opening paragraph, is not necessarily a bad one. The title of the novel, however, is. As for the synopsis, it reads rather like Hansel and Gretel on drugs. One looks forward to the full text with, well, a sense of foreboding…