Read All About It!: A Review Of M.J. Nicholls’ The 1002nd Book To Read Before You Die…

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M.J. Nicholls’ previous novel The House Of Writers was, as the title suggests, a book on and about writers and writing, but it was so much more. He has followed it with The 1002nd Book To Read Before You Die which, as the title suggests, concentrates on readers and reading, but to say it is so much more than that would be understatement of the highest order. It is a love-letter to literature, but one which casts a delightfully cynical and often incredulous eye over all the hype and hoopla which surrounds the publishing industry. From writers, through agents, festivals and their organisers, literary panels and prizes, book sellers, publishers, and critics, to you, dear readers, (and me), Nicholls is coruscating in his condemnation, but remains droll and darkly comedic throughout, his tongue just far enough in his cheek for us to get the joke.

It begins with a Legal Disclaimer which reads, “The Scottish Arts Council strongly repudiate all the claims made in this novel.”. This sets the tone for a fantastically inventive novel where fiction meets fact, and while the lines between the two are mostly clear, it is surprisingly exciting to read a novel where living and breathing writers mix with each other, and with Nicholls’ characters, building to some unforgettable scenes. In lesser hands the amount of referencing of authors, writers, and other cultural touchstones could have been a distraction, or an exercise in showing how clever the writer is, but here it all feels a necessary part of the bigger picture. Continue reading

House Rules: A Review Of M.J. Nicholls’ The House Of Writers…

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The last novel standing of 2017’s “must read/review” pile is M.J. Nicholls’ The House Of Writers, and it proves to be apt as it meant the year was bookended by two novels which shared a subject but differed in approach, (the first being David Keenan’s This Is Memorial Device).

Both novels look at the importance of art in society, but where Keenan creates a mythical musical scene for 1980’s Airdrie, The House Of Writers is set in a dystopian future Scotland, one which is trying to recover from societal breakdown, and which is now one enormous Call Centre called ‘Scotcall’. There are some authors left and they reside in a designated communal tower block. All genres are here, separated on a floor-by-floor basis, but no matter what they write they are viewed with anything between suspicion and outright contempt. Continue reading