April 11, 2016

Book Review: "The Mark and the Void" by Paul Murray

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The Mark and the Void, by Paul Murray

The Mark and the Void
By Paul Murray
Farrah, Straus and Giroux
Reviewed by Jason Pettus

Although I never did get around to reading it, for a long time Paul Murray's previous novel Skippy Dies was on my wish list here at CCLaP, simply because people seemingly never stopped talking about it, even years after it had first come out; and now that I've read his newest, The Mark and the Void, I can see why that might be, because this is one of those books that literally keeps poking up in your consciousness even weeks after you've finished it. At its heart it's an angry indictment by an Irish native of the corrupt banking practices that both created the "Celtic Tiger" phenomenon of the early 2000s and that caused it to implode a decade later, faster than anyone could've guessed; but it's important to note right away that it's also a lot more than this, and that in fact this book would've largely been a failure if it had simply been an angry screed against the one-percenters. Instead it's also a surrealist comedy, in which a failed novelist tries pulling a scam on said bankers, whose pathetic and immediate failure hides a series of deeper and more unsettling scams under the surface of the first one; a world in which inept CEOs hire Russian theoretical mathematicians to invent algorithms to show that fiscal losses are actually fiscal profits, and where corporate headquarters are built on the sides of active volcanoes for the tax breaks involved. A true epic that bobs and weaves in and out of so many subplots in 460 pages to make your head spin, this is exactly how an angry indictment of a corrupt rich elite should be, funny and dark and infinitely digressive into a whole series of preposterous situations; and in fact the only reason that this book isn't getting an even higher score is that Murray ultimately can never truly get away from his earnest, Charles-Dickens-like anger over the coke-snorting financiers who bankrupted his country, a wearying type of political ranting that unfortunately pokes up its head on a regular basis in this book, despite it otherwise being so masterfully symbolic and laugh-out-loud funny. Other than that quibble, though, this is a hugely entertaining book that will likely be making our best-of lists at the end of the year, a truly historic look at the 2010s Economic Meltdown that comes strongly recommended to one and all.

Out of 10: 9.6

Read even more about The Mark and the Void: Official site | Amazon | GoodReads | LibraryThing | Wikipedia

Filed by Jason Pettus at 7:00 AM, April 11, 2016. Filed under: Literature | Literature:Fiction | Reviews |