Wednesday 25 November 2009

The Tremor of Forgery

Speaking of Patricia Highsmith, I finished The Tremor of Forgery recently, and found it a really unusual book. It's not a crime novel really, although there is an unconfirmed killing in it. It's much more about one man losing his moral compass, or rather questioning what morality is. It's incredibly internalised: Howard Ingham, the 'hero', is in Tunisia writing a book, and there are long passages where he turns events (both 'real' and in his novel) over in his mind. The book isn't written in the first person – I don't think any of Highsmith's books are – but we really get inside Ingham's head, and, in that brilliant way of Highsmith's, start to accept a kind of amoral view of the world. You're almost lulled into it; the writing's so matter-of-fact that questionable thoughts and acts become somehow everyday, acceptable even. But what's really interesting about the book is that, essentially, nothing much happens. Ingham writes his novel, meets a few people, goes on a few trips, eats, drinks, and thinks. The one 'death' we witness impacts on Ingham's state of mind, but not in an obvious way. It's something he returns to, mulls over, but it's one of many things: his work, his relationships, his sexuality. It's a fascinating novel.

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