Nothing but the Present

Lorna Scott Fox

  • The Law of Enclosures by Dale Peck
    Chatto, 287 pp, £15.99, February 1996, ISBN 0 7011 6160 4

The first thing the literary world noticed about Dale Peck was his youth. Now 28, he produced the harrowing Martin and John (attractively published in Britain as Fucking Martin) at 25. Why do we expect so little of the (not all that) young? Peck’s sophistication needs no excuse or applause on those grounds. There is something far more remarkable about him within the youth consensus itself, and that is his death wish – or that of his fiction. It’s an uneasy distinction in this case, as his two novels deliberately flaunt their processing of personal experience to give us multiple redneck fathers, dead mothers and their avatars in the trailer homes and desperate suburbs of Long Island and Kansas where Peck grew up. A narrow but inexhaustible set of elements is folded over and over into the narrative, rolled into flakes of raw life streaked with story-telling, and scattered incompletely, like the body of Osiris, across both books.

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