Checkout 19 by Claire-Louise Bennett: Amorphous, strange, dark, shiny
The pond by Claire-Louise Bennett, a collection of surrealist vignettes which, for Jia Tolentino, “have modified [one’s] state of consciousness like a drug ”, appeared in 2015. The wait was long and long, then, for Checkout 19, a fickle self-fictitious work in seven sections and in the amorphous style of Bennett. It’s a book about reading, about a working-class girl nourishing her personality with books and coming herself to write with addictive devotion, but it has nothing of the sedation that a book about books entails. . Instead, Pond’s style – puffy erudition – runs freely, going down darker avenues this time around.
In A Silly Business, a child remembers pulling six to twelve books out of the library, finding too many books as a distraction, and deciding it was best to take one: “And sure enough, that annoyed people. Yes. Yes. Yes he did. Endless. That’s all you take away, they would exclaim. This they or they – the world, adults and classmates and, later, boyfriends – must be dealt with or escaped. She secretes Roald Dahl’s Switch Bitch in a dining room cabinet and reads Alan Sillitoe aloud to a mother who is at home between shifts in a department store. A teacher she has a crush on finds her stories and asks for more, creating a scintillating situation in which the first weasels in writing are tinged with desire.