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.