Confessing the Blues
Picador, $22 pb, 363 pp
Comedy, Angela Carter once quipped, is tragedy that happens to other people. Laughter is both an expression of our hard-bitten knowledge of the random cruelty of a universe that stubbornly resists our attempts to control it and an act of defiance in the face of that cruelty. Or, to put it in simpler terms, if you didn’t laugh, you’d cry.
With his first two novels, Silences Long Gone and Tin Toys, Anson Cameron revealed himself as a peculiarly spiky talent, possessed of a finely tuned literary sensibility, an invigorating disregard for the moral sensitivities of his audience and a blackly ironic sense of humour. Neither seemed to have been conceived as comic novels per se, but both were funny, if cruel, black and slippery. Confessing the Blues, his third novel, is an attempt to emphasise the humour. It’s a rock ’n’ roll novel that is not so much about the bittersweet taste of success as the galling taste of failure, and the pain of ordinariness for someone who has aimed at being anything but.