Paul Beatty‘s The Sellout. I have nothing good to say about this book, so I will say nothing, save to give you a health warning. The N-word appears more times on each page than in each page of Huckleberry Finn (unless you read the bowdlerised version).
I think it is a transatlantic thing and it appears I am not alone in that opinion.
So it is something of a relief to turn to The Many, a first novel by Wyl Menmuir.
This is also a vernacular novel, in the sense that it is rooted in place, in this case Cornwall, or Kernow as I am sure he calls it.
This is not a perfect book, there are many threads that hang in the air like spider’s webs, it is mysterious, troubling and there is one extra non-human character – dread.
An emmet (stranger) moves into an empty cottage that has stood untenanted since the last occupant Perran died, a matter of about ten years. Though his reasons for choosing this particular place to move to are more than puzzling.
It cannot be an accident that Perran is also a version of the name of the patron Saint. St Pyran or Piran is one of several saints associated with Cornwall, Petroc and Michael being others. St Piran was thrown into the Irish Sea with a millstone round his neck, but he miraculously survived and made landfall at the coastal town, now called Perranport.
So it is particularly upsetting for the local fishermen that Perran drowned. Ethan, his friend and shipmate is particularly upset at the arrival of Timothy, and others too give the impression of being suspicious. Clem has taken Perran’s job looking out for boats coming back to harbour to work the winch that drags them to the beach, he seems more accommodating but just as clammed up when asked questions.
But all is not well at sea either, a ring of container ships prevent vessels from going far out to fish, and in the permitted area chemical waste had polluted the water so badly that such trawls that catch any fish at all, find the fish are hideously deformed or damaged. The men from the ministry greet each successful fishing expedition, and there are not many, buying up the entire catch.
It is all redolent with misery, failure and fury. The violent outpouring of which comes suddenly, and centres on Perran: the untouchable, the pure, the faithful.
The ending seems like a non-sequitur, though not one of the cobwebs.
This is another edition from a small imprint, Salt.