Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann

British/American fiction

Source – personal copy

I am rarely tempted by a new book in English but this book grabbed me when I saw pictures of this huge book I was interested in what it was about any way Lucy Ellmann had written a number of books since the late ’80s. She is the daughter of two writers and is married to a writer and has taught creative writing. She had all her earlier books published by a big publisher. But when this book was finished and described to her usual publisher They turned it down. It was picked up by the small publisher Galley Beggar Press. I mean a thousand-page modernist novel that has no plot and is a stream of consciousness eight sentences that makes up the book.

I wish I had nice handwriting, the fact that i also have a few of her favourite sweaters, but that’s about it, beside the stuff she gave me, like some books and stuff, ups, fedex, rolex, X-ray, and my old patchwork quilt that was always on my bed as a kid, the  fact that it’s reall falling apart now, the fact that Jane Austen no longer exists and only ever existed briefly, not long enough to finish  Sandition, tragedy, enormity, Bronx cheer, Graduation Gowns, Choir Robes, paper owels, humdinger, Uber, Lyft, biege countertop, the fact that some people work for Uber and lyft at the same time.

One passage where she admires her moves handwriting then drifts off to something else in her mind.

The book is narrated by a housewife she is from Ohio and that is all we really know. Well, we learn more like she has her own baking business that she runs from her home.  What follows in the book is her thoughts that flow and drift from here to there lists words jumping from words that sound alike. These lists I loved as she had a thought an old productor some such and then from that word jumps to similar words. It then goes to the state of Modern America Trump gaining power. Writers she likes Laura Ingalls her of little house fame and then she references Anne Tyler especially her book The Accidental tourist which maybe of all her books captures modern American life as it follows a family recovering from the loss of a son to a shooting. The book is full of America but also her family from the title that relates to an event in her youth involving her sister. Then she worries about her own four kids in Trump’s world. It is hard like many books of this length, to sum up the world of this book as it is more about the internal mind than the external world and how her thoughts run and that is so difficult to capture.

Laura Ingalls Wilder’s dog was called Jack, the fact that i keep thinking I see the abominable snowmanmoving between those trees down there, a bigfoot, just behind the bushers, gully the fact that ben would be thrilled, the fact that I should photograph it, but of course I don’t have my phone, that that if I had my phone I would be in this mess freezing to death in the wilderness, the fact that I am always forgetting my cell, the fact that it’s so silly not to have it with you at all times, the fact that the people on the planes in 9/11 made good use of theirphone, the fact that I bet every American has carried their cell phone with them since 9/11

Another digression from Laura Ingalls to 9/11 in four lines.

Everyone knows this book as I was discussing one twitter when a friend ask me what I thought of it as they had been put off by the hype and I could connect with that but the thought of a thousand-page book that tries to grapple with the scary world that is modern America. Well for me this remind me in tone at times to Thomas Bernhard as it has at times a similar feeling in the tone of her words if he had been a midwest American housewife this would have been how he wrote even the lack of paragraphs and long sentences are something that Bernhard used in his books. I was pleased when I read that she had given Bernhard to her husband to read many years ago. When it made the Booker shortlist I knew I had to read it I had already got it as a fan of really long novels it was one that grabbed me and showed that small publishers are great at taking chances she describes how she actually added 30,000 words in one edit of the original manuscript how many large publishers would allow that to a large book get larger. I was reminded of Sergio de la Pava struggle to get his Naked singularity like this another huge modernist work that in another way wrestles with the world that is modern America. Ellmann tries to grab what life is like for a middle-aged woman struggling to get by the changing of focus in the female roles with in the world the rise of Trump and does it in a wonderfully poetic and thought-provoking book.

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Anokatony
    Sep 19, 2019 @ 20:17:33

    And you don’t even quote a whole sentence of her writing. Just kidding.

    Reply

  2. Lisa Hill
    Sep 19, 2019 @ 23:26:40

    I have to admit that I’m put off by the hype… but it’s also partly that we already can’t help but know a lot about modern America and I don’t feel I need to know more.

    Reply

  3. TravellinPenguin
    Sep 20, 2019 @ 00:58:28

    I agree with Lisa. I can barely read anything to do with life in America as it stands now. Interesting review.

    Reply

  4. heavenali
    Sep 21, 2019 @ 13:37:12

    I am intruiged by this book, but also a bit put off by the length. The hype doesn’t bother me so much, I have just read and reviewed The Testaments (ridiculous hype but deserved) but I am reading quite slowly at the moment and this would be a big time investment. I don’t like grappling with huge tomes either, so would have to read on kindle. Having said that, I probably won’t read it just yet.

    Reply

  5. Trackback: September 2019 that was the month | Winstonsdad's Blog

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