Skip to main content

Crudo

Review

Crudo

Olivia Laing --- a journalist, critic and author of THE LONELY CITY --- has written a short, timely novel about… Well, that’s a little unclear.

Ostensibly narrated by a 40-year-old British writer a lot like Laing, CRUDO is in part about politics in the US and UK in 2017, where Trump and Brexit have sucked away public discourse on any other topics. And yet the novel is, seemingly, cross-narrated by American writer and feminist Kathy Acker, who died in 1997. (Interest in Acker’s work appears to have had a revival recently, and in her footnotes Laing cites a biography, Chris Kraus’ AFTER KATHY ACKER, that was published last year.)

"[T]he 'narrator' invites the reader to experience --- without having to make sense of --- the workings of a complex, highly anxious but impressively sensitive human being."

The result of this mashup of auto-fiction and impersonation is a bizarre stream-of-consciousness chronicling by “Kathy” of her impending nuptials to a man who is 29 years older, along with her fearful concerns about the state of the world, aging (hers and his), traveling (to New York, on holiday), writing, caring too much and not caring enough: “Numbness mattered, it was what the Nazis did, made people feel like things were moving too fast to stop and though unpleasant and eventually terrifying and appalling, were probably impossible to do anything about.” Numbness is not what the narrator experiences; on the contrary, she’s alive to every emotion, experience and observation.

While it’s impossible to separate out the voices of author, narrator and Kathy, CRUDO doesn’t seem to require that of the reader. The point is to remain in the stream, grasp what it’s like to worry about the macro and the micro with equal intensity, and absorb the sensibility. If the book was longer or had a more demanding plot, this might be too much to pull off, but at 150 pages (eight of them footnotes), the “narrator” invites the reader to experience --- without having to make sense of --- the workings of a complex, highly anxious but impressively sensitive human being.

Reviewed by Lorraine W. Shanley on September 14, 2018

Crudo
by Olivia Laing

  • Publication Date: September 11, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
  • ISBN-10: 0393652726
  • ISBN-13: 9780393652727