December 16, 2008
Ewan Morrison - Books of the Year
"True to this year's DIY philosophy of finding beauty in the crap of the world, The Happiest Man In The World by Alec Wilkinson (Vintage) is a this-can't-possibly-be-true-but-it-is biography of one of the 20th century's most eccentric eccentrics - Poppa Neutrino - a man, who among other things, at an age when most men would be accepting slippers and Horlicks, sailed across the North Atlantic in a boat made out of junk he found on the streets of New York.
"Another great work about being a bum is the 19th century classic - Hunger by Knut Hamsun. 'A work of pioneeering modernism' it may be but for me it was a deep look at the kind of ecstatic madness that can be entered into when you turn your back on civilisation and the many satiations and distractions it offers. Both these books had me secretly dreaming of some kind of escape from the consumerist world, which is perhaps a pity as I'm still in it and did nothing other than read two book, so they therefore had a reactionary effect and prevented me doing anything other than - well shopping for books.
"Anyway, the final best book is by someone who did actually escape, and whose escape has thrown a great shadow over the whole purpose of writing at all. Consider the Lobster: and other essays by David Foster Wallace took me to the limits of what can be thought and said and made me very conscious of the prison walls of self-conscious and impotent knowledge that, it would seem, became too much for the man himself to stand.
"In spite of what seems the case, the thing that should be said about these three books is that they are all, in some impossible way, 'funny.' Don't ask me how or why."
Ewan Morrison is a novelist and writer-director for film and television. His second novel, Distance, was published by Jonathan Cape in June.