Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Bridges and Bones: Mike McCormack Has Won the Goldsmiths Prize, in Association with the New Statesman, for a Virtuosic Novel about an Ordinary Life

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Bridges and Bones: Mike McCormack Has Won the Goldsmiths Prize, in Association with the New Statesman, for a Virtuosic Novel about an Ordinary Life

Article excerpt

I am the sort of reader who likes to put a pencil mark beside lines that I particularly love in a book. The marks stop about halfway through my copy of Mike McCormack's Solar Bones because there were too many phrases to note. Here is an observation of a bread knife given as a wedding present 20 years ago, held out to the narrator by his wife: "it had become rounded and worn with the bevelled edges of the ash handle faintly bleached from continual washing".

Marcus Conway, the narrator, considers how the knife had its beginnings "in the murk of prehistory as a blunt river cobble or shard of flint, through all its brittle bronze and ferric variants ... till it arrived safely in her hand". Marcus is an engineer who lives with Mairead in the west of Ireland, their two children grown and living their own lives; a long-married couple finding a way through their later years along the path of language that McCormack has built for them. This is an ordinary story told in the most extraordinary words, and I was thrilled, as a judge of this year's Goldsmiths Prize, to be able to add it to the list of worthy winners.

The Goldsmiths Prize was launched in 2013, in association with the New Statesman, "to reward fiction that breaks the mould or opens up new possibilities for the novel form". Having A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride as its inaugural winner, the prize lived up to this manifesto. McBride had struggled to find a publisher for nine years before the book appeared from the tiny, independent Galley Beggar Press; it went on to win the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction and its author--whose second novel also appeared on our shortlist this year--is now recognised as one of the most exciting voices in English. Now in its fourth year, the Goldsmiths Prize has surely proved that "experimental" writing can find a large and appreciative readership. …

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