I had read Sparrow Nights years ago and forgetting I had done so was half the way through before I realized it. With some books, at that point, I close them and move on but I was once again enthralled. I had forgotten as well what a fine writer this man is.
The last book by him that I read was A Perfect Night to Go to China. Its about what happens after a father, leaving his young boy asleep in bed, wanders down to a local bar, has a drink and when he returns home, finds the front door open and the boy missing. Its not a mystery thriller but more of a sad narrative of guilt and loss.
However, what was evident somewhat in that book and so much more in this one, Sparrow Nights, is that Gilmour is very good at writing about sex. I don’t mean that in the sense about describing the mechanics but in describing what people are thinking and how they live their lives around the sex. And it is more a sex than a love narrative but it is thoughtful and tender and tough too in how it says things you never read elsewhere. A brutal honesty of what goes on between the sheets and the sad little ways in how people cope with someone leaving.
Gilmour used to have a television show called Gilmour on the Arts and part of it was interviewing people and I always found these interviews singular in that he was utterly fearless in conversation. There was no mollycoddling or a bit of ground given to fame; he went for the throat if he thought the individual was a poseur and often they were.
You got the sense that perhaps he was a difficult person to be around, perhaps an utter asshole but how entertaining at arm’s length and what is interesting about his protagonists is that they share a little of this brutal interaction with the world yet tempered or offset by the most remarkable nuance, the most detailed observation of the ways of the mind and the heart.
For the first few days I wandered about in a state of relief. At least I knew. But then it started up again, waking in the morning too early, imagining her in bed with her boss, spread-eagled in ecstatic, name-calling abandon. I knew enough about bodies and their predictability to know that no matter how much a woman adores you, she will invariably end up repeating her favourite repertoire in the bed of the man who replaces you. A thought that, when it struck, made me want to sit down in the street.