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Solar Bones
Cover of Solar Bones
Solar Bones
Borrow Borrow
Longlisted for the 2017 Man Booker Prize
Winner of the Goldsmiths Prize
Winner of the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards Novel of the Year 
An Irish Times Book Club Choice

"With stylistic gusto, and in rare, spare, precise and poetic prose, Mike McCormack gets to the music of what is happening all around us. One of the best novels of the year." —Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin and TransAtlantic 
Solar Bones is a masterwork that builds its own style and language one broken line at a time; the result is a visionary accounting of the now.

A vital, tender, death-haunted work by one of Ireland’s most important contemporary writers, Solar Bones is a celebration of the unexpected beauty of life and of language, and our inescapable nearness to our last end. It is All Souls Day, and the spirit of Marcus Conway sits at his kitchen table and remembers. In flowing, relentless prose, Conway recalls his life in rural Ireland: as a boy and man, father, husband, citizen. His ruminations move from childhood memories of his father’s deftness with machines to his own work as a civil engineer, from transformations in the local economy to the tidal wave of global financial collapse. Conway’s thoughts go still further, outward to the vast systems of time and history that hold us all. He stares down through the “vortex of his being,” surveying all the linked circumstances that combined to bring him into this single moment, and he makes us feel, if only for an instant, all the terror and gratitude that existence inspires.
Longlisted for the 2017 Man Booker Prize
Winner of the Goldsmiths Prize
Winner of the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards Novel of the Year 
An Irish Times Book Club Choice

"With stylistic gusto, and in rare, spare, precise and poetic prose, Mike McCormack gets to the music of what is happening all around us. One of the best novels of the year." —Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin and TransAtlantic 
Solar Bones is a masterwork that builds its own style and language one broken line at a time; the result is a visionary accounting of the now.

A vital, tender, death-haunted work by one of Ireland’s most important contemporary writers, Solar Bones is a celebration of the unexpected beauty of life and of language, and our inescapable nearness to our last end. It is All Souls Day, and the spirit of Marcus Conway sits at his kitchen table and remembers. In flowing, relentless prose, Conway recalls his life in rural Ireland: as a boy and man, father, husband, citizen. His ruminations move from childhood memories of his father’s deftness with machines to his own work as a civil engineer, from transformations in the local economy to the tidal wave of global financial collapse. Conway’s thoughts go still further, outward to the vast systems of time and history that hold us all. He stares down through the “vortex of his being,” surveying all the linked circumstances that combined to bring him into this single moment, and he makes us feel, if only for an instant, all the terror and gratitude that existence inspires.
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Excerpts-
  • From the book the bell
      the bell as
      hearing the bell as
        hearing the bell as standing here
        the bell being heard standing here
        hearing it ring out through the grey light of this
        morning, noon or night
        god knows
        this grey day standing here and
        listening to this bell in the middle of the day, the middle of the day bell, the Angelus bell in the middle of the day, ringing out through the grey light to
        here
        standing in the kitchen
        hearing this bell
        snag my heart and
        draw the whole world into
        being here
        pale and breathless after coming a long way to stand in this kitchen
        confused
        no doubt about that
        but hearing the bell from the village church a mile away as the crow flies, across the street from the garda station, beneath the giant sycamore trees which tower over it and in which a colony of rooks have made their nests, so many and so noisy that sometimes in spring when they are nesting their clamour fills the church and
        exhausted now, so quickly
        that sprint to the church and the bell
        yes, they are the real thing
        the real bells
        not a transmission or a broadcast because
        there’s no mistaking the fuller depth and resonance of the sound carried towards me across the length and breadth of this day and which, even at this distance reverberates in my chest
        a systolic thump from the other side of this parish, which lies on the edge of this known world with Sheeffry and Mweelrea to the south and the open expanse of Clew Bay to the north
        the Angelus bell
        ringing out over its villages and townlands, over the fields and hills and bogs in between, six chimes of three across a minute and a half, a summons struck on the lip of the void which gathers this parish together through all its primary and secondary roads with
        all its schools and football pitches
        all its bridges and graveyards
        all its shops and pubs
        the builder’s yard and health clinic
        the community centre
        the water treatment plant and
        the handball alley
        the made world with
        all the focal points around which a parish like this gathers itself as surely as
        the world itself did at the beginning of time, through
        mountains, rivers and lakes
        when it gathered in these parts around the Bunowen river which rises in the Lachta hills and flows north towards the sea, carving out that floodplain to which all roads, primary and secondary, following the contours of the landscape, make their way and in the middle of which stands
        the village of Louisburgh
        from which the Angelus bell is ringing, drawing up the world again
        mountains, rivers and lakes
        acres, roods and perches
        animal, mineral, vegetable
        covenant, cross and crown
        the given world with
        all its history to brace myself while
    ...
About the Author-
  • Mike McCormack is an award-winning novelist and short story writer from County Mayo in Ireland. His previous work includes Forensic Songs; Notes from a Coma, which was shortlisted for the Irish Book of the Year Award; Crowe’s Requiem; and Getting It in the Head, which was awarded the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature and was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. He lives in Galway.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from July 10, 2017
    The latest from McCormack (Notes from a Coma) is a beautifully constructed novel that blends Beckett’s torrential monologues with a realist portrait of small-town Ireland. The book opens with short, fragmented descriptions of the “systolic thump” of a church bell heard by a man, Marcus Conway, standing in his kitchen. He is a civil engineer and a one-time seminary student who lives on the west coast of Ireland, at “the edge of this known world.” Waiting for his wife and children to return home, Marcus is struck by the “twitchy energy in the ether,” mystified at being “swept up on a rush of words” and bombarded with “a hail of images.” Free of periods, the one-sentence novel is comprised of Marcus’s unceasing reflections and recollections, some lyrical and tender, others caustic, on his childhood, family, politics, and local building projects. He marvels at the miraculous construction of the world while feeling a sense of foreboding at its imminent unravelling. Bodies, minds, buildings, financial systems, the civic order, and the universe itself—“the whole vast assemblage of stars and galaxies in their wheeling rotations”—all seem poised of the brink of collapse. As Marcus waxes eloquent on everything from tractor parts to concrete foundations, the novel’s suspense derives from the mystery of why this “strange” day—All Souls’ Day, as it happens—occasions such an “unspooling” of the mind. This is an intelligent, striking work.

  • Library Journal

    July 1, 2017

    As the Angelus tolls on All Soul's Day, Marcus Conway's ghost visits the house that he shared with his family in Louisburgh, County Mayo, Ireland. There, he reassembles the facts of his earthly existence from memory. An engineer in life, Marcus delights in the forms and structures, both natural and human made, that shape our existence. For our protagonist, life's dark comedy arises from the habit of being mystified by existence despite being defined by structure, from the stunning natural features of County Mayo's coastlines and hills, Louisburgh's buildings and thoroughfares, to the bones, tissues, and fluids that to varying degrees make up earthly life. The arrangement of a sandwich on a plate delights Marcus as much as a wind turbine does, and much of his afterlife musings consider how human factors such as politics and property compromise potentially perfect designs. McCormack's third novel (after Notes from a Coma, short-listed for the Irish Book of the Year Award) exhibits his startling imagination and humor as well as a measured narrative style that departs from the more rapid delivery characteristic of his earlier prose. VERDICT Widely praised, this book is a brilliant tour de force. [See Prepub Alert, 4/10/17.]--John G. Matthews, Washington State Univ. Libs., Pullman

    Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from August 1, 2017
    In this one-of-a-kind Irish novel, consisting of a single sentence a la Molly Bloom's interior monologue in Ulysses, a middle-aged man reflects on his life.Alone in his kitchen on All Souls' Day, Marcus Conway free-associates on everything from his pained family history to his physical surroundings in rural County Mayo to local politics to an unspeakable health crisis that hits home. And then there is the role he may have played as a civil engineer in the local building boom gone bust. For all his high artistic aims, McCormack is a wonderfully accessible, quick-witted writer--and, with references to Radiohead, Mad Max, and the post-millennial Battlestar Galactica, a smartly contemporary one. The book is alive with startling connections between the exterior and interior worlds (a dismantled wind turbine being hauled down the main drag "might well have been God himself") and Marcus' former and current selves. He is inspired to reappraise himself as a man and a father by the "inner harrowing" he experiences at his artist daughter's first solo exhibition, for which she duplicated, in the medium of her own blood, court reports from local newspapers. Had he failed her? McCormack breaks up his nonstop sentence with brief poetic spurts ("who made the world/God made the world/and who is God/God is our father in heaven/and so on and so on/to infinity") that give the book an irresistible driving rhythm. It's a book that demands a second reading and readings of the author's other books, including Getting it in the Head (1998) and Notes from a Coma (20013). This transcendent novel should expand McCormack's following on this side of the Atlantic and further establish him as a heavyweight of contemporary Irish fiction along with the likes of Anne Enright and Kevin Barry.

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    August 1, 2017
    McCormack won the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature for his first collection of short fiction, Getting It in the Head (1996), and quickly attracted a widespread following in literary circles for his eccentric but mesmerizing writing style. His latest work, already anointed Novel of the Year by the Irish Book Awards, challenges readers with an elegiac, stream-of-consciousness narrative composed entirely of one long run-on sentence, often broken up into more digestible verse-like lines. Taking place in and around a rural village in County Mayo, where McCormack grew up, the storyif this term even appliesdescribes the interwoven memories and reflections passing through the mind of civil engineer Marcus Conway as he sits in his kitchen one early November afternoon. Shifting back and forth across time from Conway's childhood on a farm through his early marriage and later career, McCormack's novel embraces a rich panorama of working life, spiritual contemplation, and musings over Ireland's economic woes. Deserving a readership far larger than Irish-literature devotees, this is a work of bold risks and luminous creativity.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2017, American Library Association.)

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