Friday, June 1, 2018

COVE :: Cynan Jones

A version of this review was previously published in Shelf Awareness and appears here with permission.

With his fifth short novel, Cynan Jones (Everything I Found on the Beach) further establishes himself as a master of the power of less. Cove consists of spare, verse-like prose, a sentence or two of thought or observation not always in direct correlation to the preceding or subsequent passages, yet all part of a poignant whole. A deceptively simple story of man against nature, Cove's coolness sits on currents of underlying complexity that amplify the tumult. Although the writing is quiet and polished, the terror is real. "No paddle. No flashlight. One dead phone."

A kayaker leaves a simple note, "Pick salad x," and heads to the sea to fish. Caught in a storm--"One repeated word now. No, no, no."--he is struck by lightning. On regaining consciousness, his body is damaged, his memory horrifyingly blank. He can't recall his name, but he knows he's in trouble and must find a way back to a life that flickers like static electricity at the back of his mind.

Jones writes with an attention to detail that dazzles in its ability to capture the beauty of nature ("a flock of jellyfish, like negligees") and its supreme power ("A metallic sheen comes to the water, like cutlery") with sure-handed brevity. At just over 100 pages, Jones's minimalist style has maximum effect, creating empathy for a mystery protagonist, warmth for his past and hope for his future as he struggles against the odds to be the legend who returns rather than the myth who disappeared.

STREET SENSE: A kayaker loses his memory following a lightning strike and must fight for his life on the open sea in this minimalist glimpse into his jumbled mind. Perfect for those who like their writing down and dirty yet lyrical.

A FAVORITE PASSAGE: There was a ringing in his ears, a high, insecty whine. He felt drunk. His head pumped full with something. He let the light in bit by bit, as if sipping it with his eye, raised his head and saw the water. For a moment he thought he was in some way blind; but then he understood: there was just the water, there was nothing else to see.

COVER NERD SAYS: A bird, the open ocean, sold. I love the minimalist nature of this cover, which fits well with the innards. Would pick up from any book store table.

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About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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