Thursday, October 22, 2015

Dumb House-John Burnside

Dumb House-John Burnside

the facts
satisfaction: up
pages: 198
gender: M
nationality: UK
year: 1990

Luke is obsessed with the question of whether language is innate or learned and doesn't flinch from repeating Akbar's experiment.

Okay so I was expecting something like Burnside's fellow countryman, Iain Banks (whose Wasp Factory cast a pall over the sunny picnic I read it at). Something well written but ultimately a bit too unnerving and twisted. Burnside's prose however, is just amazing. He takes what is a truly twisted character-a man who is conducting science experiments to see if children develop language even if they are not exposed to language-and with his prose makes it all somehow dreamy. I was riveted, I could barely take my attention away which was amazing considering I read this on Scotsrail. I need to read more Burnside as this is one of my favorite of the year. Morbid, twisted, like a train wreck with a main narrator who is utterly impenetrable and unlikeable yet clothed in just the pitch perfect, focused prose. I'm reminded of the morality explorations of  the movie, Sal√≥ and Robbe-Grillet's A Sentimental Novel but while those literally made me feel a bit ill and unwilling to think about them, Burnside made me think about it all.

I actually carried the physical copy of this book through a trip where I slept in 6 different beds/couches back home in order to reread it soon. On the same trip, I read and discarded 8 other books. If that doesn't tell you how much I loved this, I don't know what will.


  1. Excellent review. I'm getting a copy as it sounds right up my alley. Love your review style and rating system. Wish I'd thought of it.

    1. I hope you find it as fascinating as I did! Thanks so much, your comment has made my day.