Mike Barnes: A Room in the Dark

Mike Barnes
photo: Segbingway

As I was reading the opening chapters of Mike Barnes’ The Adjustment League, I was reminded of the private eye novels I’d read in my formative years, real classic hardboiled stuff. Obviously, I knew that wasn’t accidental, but I could also see that wasn’t all there was to it—in addition to the surface familiarity of the genre conventions, there was also this very surreal, almost abstract quality to the first-person narration and the way it depicts the novel’s Toronto setting. The closest thing I can think of to describe it is Godard’s Alphaville, but that’s not really right, because this isn’t a science fiction novel… Anyway, as this guest essay reveals, what I was picking up on was something Mike Barnes had very much in mind as he was writing… and yet, in some ways, it caught him off guard as well.

Why do you write? It’s not a question I’ve given much thought to, in part because the answers seem either obvious or unknowable. Why did the chicken cross the road? The possibilities are endless, and the chicken might just be the last to know.

One reason I’m sure of, though, since it’s grown steadily stronger over time: I write to be surprised. By now, in fact, I lose interest quickly if I sense that what I’m writing isn’t likely to ambush me with things I didn’t know before, or didn’t know I knew. I crave these jolts of breaking news about myself, about writing, about the world.

The Adjustment League was a particularly rich source of such whacks upside the head. Here are a few of the revelations, big and small, it led me to.


13 April 2017 | guest authors |

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