The Diviners by Rick Moody - review by Martyn Bedford

Martyn Bedford

Serial Sunrise

The Diviners


Faber & Faber 492pp £12.99 order from our bookshop

Few writers could get away with opening a novel with a ten-page description of the sunrise. Fewer still could get away with following that prologue with a thirteen-page chapter detailing the mental and physical gore-fest of an elderly alcoholic with acute colitis. But, then, Rick Moody has long been a writer who gets away with things. Through the callisthenics of his prose and the idiosyncrasies of his perception, he sucks you in where lesser novelists might spit you out. Moody is a terrific writer of riffs. He will pounce on a scene (a character, an idea, an image, a digression), take it between his teeth like a dog with a beanbag cushion and shake it until every last polystyrene bead has been sent flying. Repetition is a favoured device, as in the extraordinarily lyrical prologue to The Diviners: ‘Light on the island of Kyushu as source for the growth there of tobacco crops and tea leaves, light upon the tip of South Korea, light upon the Yellow Sea, light beginning to make itself felt up and down the peninsula of Korea, upon Inchon and Nampo . . . light at the speed of light on an axis of rotation, toward the Chinese coast, toward Shanghai where there was the tail of a typhoon just last week. Light upon the Nanjing Road . . . light upon the glass boxes of Chinese capitalism.’

This is an ordinary, literally everyday sunrise, made exceptional. At 0.23 miles per second, we circumnavigate the globe with the light, witnessing a succession of new dawns, from Los Angeles, across the Pacific, across Asia, the Middle East, Europe, the Atlantic and back to America again with day breaking over

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