Tim Binding is a confident writer. His paragraphs, lengthy but under control, take swift possession of the thick sheaf of pages, imposing form. The narrative voice is modestly assertive. There is a tale to be told. The taleteller, having caught your attention, will not let go. No tricks, no mannerisms, no eye-catching Modernist flourishes: that's the trick of it. The story is what it's about. And how strange a sensation this is for the innocent reader who wants to lift the carpet to see how it's done, what the author is really getting at. Contemporary fiction has made us all paranoid, a generation of conspiracy freaks, uncomfortable until we've identified the nature of the game. But not here. Binding has no truck with correspondences, coded texts, analogues, signifiers; he draws breath and plunges in. A randy weatherman spiralling out of control through the opening pages, as the hook for his first novel, In the Kingdom of Air, or the mechanics of a good public hanging convincingly laid out (by the use of words like 'gutta-percha') for his second, A Perfect Execution. Whatever follows, image by image, follows from the opening sentence, in pursuit of an essential shape. You could, should you choose to, draw a map of these books, a diagram of peaks and troughs, movement, recapitulation, coda. Binding enforces and confirms his symphonic structure with a system of linked metaphors: eggs, eyes, bombs, births twinned with deaths. A triumphant hanging at the start of the novel will be balanced by a hideously botched performance at the finish. Shape gives his books the narrative nonchalance that distinguishes the work of Angela Carter, all those gins and powders and game old boilers. Fabulous bawdy. But there is none of Carter's subversion, the dangerous sense that the narrative, if you don't keep your wits about you, will carry you somewhere you'd rather not go.
LRB 22 August 1996 | PDF Download