Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Laikonik Express

Nick Sweeney Laikonik Express (2011)
Not entirely sure what to make of this debut, and my views faltered during reading, ranging from bored to amused to entirely engaged. The narrative follows writer Nolan Kennedy to Poland where he tries to coax Don Darius, his friend and also a writer, into completing an unpublished and apparently amazing novel he's been sitting on for far too long. I'd say Laikonik Express is Kerouac's On the Road except for the fact that it's set on a Polish train, and never having read On the Road there's a danger I might actually be talking out of my arse.

Much of what transpires is low on incident, largely conversational and anecdotal, inspiring the thought that this may  represent characters as much in search of a story as their author; and whilst much of the Polish detail is fascinating, I was never quite convinced that Kennedy or Darius were ever entirely engaged with their surroundings, but for all I know this may well have been the point. Clearly it is a novel which to some extent concerns itself with the process of writing a novel, possibly an examination of the relationship between the terrain and that which ends up on the printed page. When, towards the end of the book, the lads meet Krystyna and learn that she is dying of cancer it seems the harsh reality of the situation obliges them to at last engage on a level beyond that of scenes viewed from the window of a railway carriage.


I suspect there may be a great deal that I missed in Laikonik Express, and certainly it seems pregnant with the possibilities of what it might be saying, if it really is saying any one specific thing. If the point is the journey rather than the destination, I may have appreciated more focus on the journey itself, with a little less on the anecdotes of our travellers which tended to unbalance the narrative a little in my view. Yet in the final quarter it all seemingly adds up by means suggestive of a purpose to the rambling of previous chapters.

At this point I should perhaps stress that I did enjoy Laikonik Express even if I wasn't always sure of where it was going or why. Those online reviews I've checked out mostly heap glowing praise on the quality of Nick Sweeney's narrative, and rightly so. The man is clearly incapable of a dull sentence, with even the most prosaic of observations sparkling with an effortless wit that puts most of Nick Sweeney's contemporaries to shame.

Possibly an unusual debut - says the man who rarely picks up anything that doesn't have a picture of a robot on the cover - but one that may prove more rewarding with time, and one that hints very strongly at better to come.

No comments:

Post a Comment