Despite my complete failure to finish my Big Fat Book in the readalong that I initiated, I’ve taken the plunge once again, thanks to Ros Clarke’s hosting of a Summer BFB readalong. I initially decided I would read David Peace’s Red or Dead; it’s 700+ pages about Liverpool FC’s great manager, Bill Shankly. I had started the book back in the spring and read about 200 pages. I’m also currently listening to the second novel in Peace’s Red Riding quartet, which is extremely dark and depressing, so I thought a book about a truly good man would be a counterpoint. I even went out and bought the hardcover version because to me the prose style fits print better than e-reading.
I started over at the beginning, got to page 10, and put it down. Nothing David Peace writes is quick or easy reading. His prose reminds me of poetry, with rhythms and repetitions that must be savored. And listening to 1977 (Red Riding #2) while reading about 1950s Liverpool is just too much for me.
Hearing 1977 rather than reading it is both a better experience and a more difficult one. It’s better because the rhythms are so striking. The way the novels are written are as important to understanding what he’s saying as the plot and characterization, and with audio you can’t skip over the tough parts. And there are so many tough parts. This series is unrelenting in its depiction of a horrible time in which horrible people did horrible things. At times it’s absolutely painful to listen to, and I listen while I’m out walking or hiking in some of the most beautiful scenery around. The juxtaposition makes it even worse.