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Clear: A Transparent Novel [Paperback]

Nicola Barker

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Book Description

June 2 2005

On September 5, 2003, illusionist David Blaine entered a small Perspex box adjacent to London's Thames River and began starving himself. Forty-four days later, on October 19, he left the box, fifty pounds lighter. That much, at least, is clear. And the rest? The crowds? The chaos? The hype? The rage? The fights? The lust? The filth? The bullshit? The hypocrisy?

Nicola Barker fearlessly crams all that and more into this ribald and outrageous peep show of a novel, her most irreverent, caustic, up-to-the-minute work yet, laying bare the heart of our contemporary world, a world of illusion, delusion, celebrity, and hunger.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco (June 2 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060797576
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060797577
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 13.7 x 2.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 318 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,274,021 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

With her fresh, confident sophomore novel (after Behindlings), Barker offers a meditation on illusionist David Blaine's feat of self-starvation—44 days spent suspended in a clear box above the Thames River. Analytical narrator Adie, a prickly, literate young man who works in an office overlooking the Blaine spectacle, carefully dissects the psychology of both Blaine and the hordes of onlookers who feed him attention as he slowly starves. Meanwhile, Adie's own drama unfolds, set off by a strange encounter with Aphra, a perplexing girl with a freakish sense of smell and a fetish for vintage shoes who spends her nights on the riverbank watching Blaine sleep. As Adie's involvement with Aphra grows more complicated, his initially cynical interest in Blaine becomes more obsessive. "Perhaps... this loopy illusionist has tapped into something.... A fury. A disillusionment," Adie muses, ruminating on the vileness and beauty that Blaine's presence has brought out among Brits. Despite Adie's determined disdain for the man, the unwelcome "Hunger Artist" leads him to wonder if "Some things are beyond the reach of art. Some words are meaningful beyond understanding." Offbeat and authentic, intellectual and accessible, Barker's is an original voice. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

“Barker’s weird imagination works wonders...Exceptional.” (Elle)

“The brilliance of Barker’s style is beyond question.” (The Spectator)

“The diversity of Barker’s imagination is stunning; her language, witty and exact.” (Daily Telegraph (London))

“An exasperating, beguiling, and occasionally damn-ner perfect piece of work [by an] infuratingly talented British author.” (Kirkus Reviews on Behindlings)

“Nicola Barker has a rare writing talent.” (Time Out (London))

“Barker’s earthy, inventive, hilarious, and wickedly satirical novel is enormously entertaining.” (Booklist)

“Her vision is unique, funny, dark, sarcastic and clever.” (Alain de Botton)

“Barker’s narrative draws us in with the disturbing, surreal touch of a latter-day Lewis Carroll.” (Sunday Times (London))

“Dazzling...She celebrates the complexity of human experience.” (London Times)

“The plot doesn’t just twist, it leaps and back-flips and does triple somersaults...” (New York Times Book Review)

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
I couldn't even begin to tell you why, exactly, but my head was suddenly buzzing with the opening few lines of Jack Schaefer's Shane (his 'Classic Novel of the American West'. Remember?). Read the first page
Explore More
Concordance
Browse Sample Pages
Front Cover | Copyright | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Quirky people saying clever things Aug. 15 2005
By trainreader - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Why am I the first person to review Nicola Barker's "Clear"? It has been prominently displayed for weeks at the Border's bookstore where I purchased it, and you would think that someone would have reviewed it on this website by now. I feel an extra responsibility to get it right. Anyway, I'm pretty confident in stating that "Clear" is not so bad, and not so great.

As a backdrop to what is basically a first person narrative stream of consciousness, we have David Blaine's stunt where he confined himself in a suspended glass tank in London, without eating anything, drinking only water, for 44 days, while London crowds looked on in fascination and disgust. Blaine, of course, is one of those new breeds of extreme magicians/performance artists, who subject themselved to unimaginable hardships, or is it all just some illusion?

In any event, Nicola Barker combines the styles of Whit Stillman (who wrote the screenplays for "Metropolitan," "Barcelona," and "Last Days of Disco"), with Jack Kerouac's classic "On the Road." What you basically have is a bunch of twenty or thirty something men and women who are far too clever, can refer to the most obscure subjects at the drop of a hat, and who listen to the coolest music imaginable. They all have quirky and sometimes androgenous names (e.g. main character and narrator Adair, his larger than life roomate Solomon, Solomon's girlfriend Jalisa, Adair's former male co-worker Hilary, and Adair's two female interests Aphra and Bly). Everyone has something quite deep to say about David Blaine, as well as other unrelated subjects, which get analyzed on an impossibly intellectual level, including (perhaps most interestingly) the western "Shane" (in its novel form). Are otherwise average middle class people who live in England so much more clever than their American counter-parts?

Nicola Barker writes in an interesting and unique voice, which didn't quite do it for me in "Clear." However, if the above sounds interesting to you, you will almost certainly enjoy the book.
1.0 out of 5 stars Really annoying (like, you know, *totally* annoying) Feb. 21 2012
By rantboi - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I've recently become a *huge* fan of novelist Scarlett Thomas, so I'm always on the lookout for a similar writer I might like (and Nicola Barker seemed like an *interesting* novelist, and she was also recommended by Ms. Thomas herself). What could go wrong? (Well, like *lots* of things.) Even though I did read the first page to see if it would be something I liked (I've bought some doozies before), I did not (read: did *not*) expect that the *entire* novel would be written in such an obnoxious (annoying) style (of writing).

---

Okay, you get the idea and my brain is starting to hurt, so just imagine how painful it would be to read something like that for 300+ pages. Thankfully, I stopped reading at page 55, flipped through the rest of the book and saw that every damn page has loads of parenthesis and italicized words, most of which aren't even necessary. Not only was the style annoying, there's not much plot here, or even interesting clever things being said as promised by all the rave reviews. Even if there was an excellent story here, I would probably not finish it because the style is so freaking distracting. And to think I was planning on reading the author's other novel, Darkmans, first. That one is over 800 pages of the same style of writing!

Anyway, I recommend interested readers read the sample provided by Amazon and see if they would like to read a whole book written like that. I also recommend going to Amazon UK for more reviews.

This was my first and last novel by this author.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Through the Looking Glass July 20 2005
By Donald Mitchell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Clear is the best novel I've read this year. Ms. Barker has reignited my belief that good writing lives . . . and that novels can be innovative, literate, surprising and accessible.

The book's main theme is that even when we think we are seeing, our perceptions of appearances are deceiving us.

What can be more transparent than an illusionist, David Blaine, who sits suspended in a Perspex box above the Thames while he fasts for 44 days? That central image becomes the fulcrum for this insightful, witty novel about modern conceits.

You soon get a hint that the book is in part about writing when the narrator, Adair Graham MacKenny, opens the narration with ribald praise for the language in Jack Schaefer's Shane. Later, Blaine's very illusion is discussed in terms of a Kafka story. Unlike snobbish novelists, Ms. Barker shares everything you need to know to share her point.

As the story develops, you find yourself in the middle of an enigma wrapped in several mysteries, one Aphra by name, who sits every night watching Blaine in the wee hours while others sleep, who keeps dozens of containers of gourmet food which alternative with regurgitated remnants of such food, and wears outrageous shoes. Aphra's shoe fetish nicely matches Adair's foot fetish, and Adair finds himself in enraptured pursuit. As the mysteries about Aphra are gradually resolved, you begin to appreciate Ms. Barker's point about not knowing what we are seeing. In one powerful passage on page 311, she reveals all in describing Blaine's magic:

"He's like a mirror in which people can see the very best and the very worst of themselves."

Clear goes on to make the point that we all use other people in the same way. It's clear!
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