'Hawthorn & Child'

'Hawthorn & Child'
By Keith Ridgway
New Directions

There are probably multiple, complex reasons why no one outside Britain seems to care about this book, but one, at least, seems pretty obvious: It's crazy. Like some rotting creature washed ashore, it cries out to be poked with a stick, nudged, flipped over. What the hell is it?

Well, it's a detective story, but only in the way that 'Mulholland Drive' was a mystery film. It follows the title characters as they drive around London investigating a shooting. But the story is told, in separate sections, from multiple points of view. We hear from a crime boss's chauffeur and a man who has an unholy obsession with Tony Blair ("I believe, though I cannot prove, that my illness is due directly to the perverted Catholicism and megalomania of Mr. Tony Blair"). The action seems to occur in fugue states and fails to cohere into a reality. There are shapes and mysteries, but no solid objects and no real solutions. Where David Foster Wallace tended toward the encyclopedic, Ridgway privileges the nightmarishly personal. Still, Wallace fans will take to this book. It's paradoxical, a feral and melancholy triumph.