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Facing the disarray and disorientation around his father’s death, a man contends with the strange and haunting power of the house his parents once lived in.
He sets about the mundane yet exhausting process of sorting through the remnants of his father’s life – clearing away years of accumulated objects, unearthing forgotten memories and the haunted realms of everyday life. At the same time, he embarks on an eccentric side-project. And as he grows increasingly obsessed with this new project, his grip on reality seems to slip.
Nicholas Royle challenges and experiments with literary form to forge a new mode of storytelling that is both playful and inquisitive. Tender, absorbing and at times shockingly funny, this extraordinary novel is both mystery and love story. It confronts the mad hand of grief while embracing the endless possibilities of language.
An intense study of grief and mental disintegration, a lexical celebration and a psychological conundrum... Royle explores loss and alienation perceptively and inventively.
A book of mythological power. Quilt is unforgettable, like all those great pieces of fiction that are fed by our immemorial root system, the human dream of metamorphosis.
Royle's baroque, athletic prose... confers a strong sense of the "strangeness" of English, "which, after all, belongs to no one" and should be continually reinvented. Royle is adept at doing just this... His meandering prose – which seems at once anarchic and meticulously arranged – is appropriate to the subject matter: the disarray and isolation a man experiences when his father dies. There are moments of delightfully eccentric humour and impressive linguistic experimentalism.
Nicholas Royle's first novel is a story of loss and love. He captures the absolute dislocating strangeness of bereavement. While the novel is bursting with inventive wordplay, Royle's use of language is most agile and beautiful in his descriptions of rays. In terms of narrative, the shifts in point of view have a sort of fairground quality to them, suddenly lurching, demanding your compliance, but it is the way the storyline ultimately develops that takes the breath away.
An experimental and studied look at mourning, as a man struggles to come to terms with the death of his father – clearing out his house, embarking on a strange project to house stingrays and gradually losing his grip on reality. Playful, clever and perceptive.
In the Afterword, Royle says he expects the novelist 'to aspire to a writing that figures and insists on strangeness'. He certainly achieves this with Quilt... It is in those commonplace moments at the end of a life – the manhandling of an elderly parent; the solicitous, faintly patronizing conversations; the struggle with an overgrown garden and accumulated junk mail – moments which Nicholas Royle describes with such piercing accuracy, when this novel is truly at its strangest.
This is a thoughtful, intelligent, exploratory book but not a solemn one. There's powerful emotional warmth and engagement as well as an infectious delight in words and in comic or bizarre touches of experience. Quilt's subject-matter, the death of the narrator's father and what happens in the following weeks, is undeniably sad but the writing is so vivid, so attentive and lovingly human, that the effect on me was revitalising. I read it again. The brief Afterword suggests some very interesting ways of thinking about fiction today, what it can do and what it might do. It also prompts a rethinking about Quilt itself. Royle's critical work is justly famous and has always had a kind of inventiveness more usually associated with literary writing. In Quilt he takes this creative energy to the level, as Cixous comments on the back cover, of mythmaking. It's an exciting development for English novel-readers.
It's an experiment, a curiosity and...a stirring manifesto addressing the future of the novel itself...The author loves words, he rolls around with them, he plays with them, he gorges himself on them and occasionally he beats us with them. Royle's lapses into poetry, nonsense phrases, prosody and the simple melody of language is sometimes a joy to behold. It recalls David Mitchell's lyrical bravado in some of his novels... like Myriad's other releases this book has an assured seal of quality from the very first line. In a world where our very language is being appropriated by advertising, propaganda and whatever new technologies can do to mangle it, Royle asserts that the novel has to survive by adapting, staying fresh... and undergoing bizarre metamorphoses.
I have always enjoyed Royle's theory and criticism for its subtle and eloquent writing. His first novel is an intelligent and lyrical account of mourning, madness and manta rays. It is a pleasure to move between Royle's dream of autobiographical fiction, a thesis on new writing, and his encyclopedic knowledge of rays.
Language in Quilt is remarkable, the vocabulary is rich and unusual. The writing is reminiscent of poetry more often than prose.
Quilt is one of those books I long for but come across rarely... It is strange, surprising, sui generis. In his afterword, Royle says that 'a novel wants to be a joy forever, or, let’s say, a joy-fever, a fever that resists treatment, that stays with you awhile and can come back, at once chronic and fitful.' It is the perfect description for Quilt, with its overturning qualities, its ability to stick in the head while resisting resolution, and its determination not to leave the reader feeling that the end of the text is the end of the reading experience. What my reading life needs – what the literary world needs – is more Quilts and fewer comfort blankets.
From the very beginning of this book the reader embarks on a fictional journey that feels distinctly different from any they may have had before. Language in all its strangeness and beauty comes to the fore, whilst at the same time the very human story is movingly conveyed. The tale is about the profound nature of the everyday, about emotional events that every reader will experience at some time in their lives. But it is also funny and intellectual. It engages the reader’s thoughts, challenges them, calls for them to think about the very language they read and speak and inhabit. This is an inventive, risky piece of writing, which succeeds because of the way in which it combines flights of imagination with the sense of a powerful emotional reality.
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The Guardian's John Self chooses Quilt for his Booker fantasy shortlist: 'All books that try to strike out in new directions, and that are thrillingly enjoyable'.
From an essential plot device for Chandler to the voice of God in Muriel Spark, the author explains how the telephone has wormed its way into literature, and why the novel is itself a kind of phonecall...