Tuesday, November 04, 2003

An Irish-American outlook 

I'm currently reading Michael Collins' THE KEEPERS OF TRUTH, which was shortlisted for the Booker in 2000 (it lost to Margaret Atwood's THE BLIND ASSASSIN.) Collins is woefully underrated, especially in America, as his most recent novels have chronicled the rot of American small towns and offer extremely insightful social commentary cloaked in the structure of a crime novel. His books are as close as one can get to a "literary thriller" as possible; they are accessible and keep you turning the pages but are deeply disquieting as well. KEEPERS probably won't be my favorite of his works; that honor goes to the just released LOST SOULS (available Stateside in May 2004), which has had a number of conflicting takes but the Observer's review really gets it:

"The world of Michael Collins may be a gloomy place. The things that happen there may be gloomier still. But his mastery of style, moment and place, gives it a curious vitality which is thoroughly compelling."

Collins has been based in Seattle for several years, originally landing there after an undergraduate degree at Notre Dame and postgrad work in Chicago. He moved there to work for Microsoft, and even though he'd been several-times published in the UK and Australia, he'd long been without a book deal in the US and didn't tell any of his co-workers that he was a writer until he needed to fly over to Ireland to accept their Book of the Year award for KEEPERS. Although at the time they feared his book was about them, it wasn't the case, although his next book may hit closer to the home of Gates & co. Collins remarks further in this recent interview:

“The new novel I’m writing though is a bigger book. I’m reckoning on two years for that.” His new project, Exodus, is set in the future, and it’s all about rich Americans “who decide they just want to leave the planet.”

Sounds to me like his attempt to write a JG Ballard sort of book, but whether that's the case, of course, remains to be seen. In the meantime, Collins is also working on a memoir of life with his brother, tentatively titled THE PARASITE. And things look good for turning another of Collins' novels, THE RESURRECTIONISTS, into a movie. The future is very bright indeed for someone who is fast becoming one of my very favorite writers.

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