“When the sugarcane’s burning and the rabbits are running, look for the boys who are quicker than flame…”
Every now and again you get your hands on a book that feels older than it really is. The pages are appley crisp, the publishing date not long past, but you’d swear there’s an old soul humming inside the polished dust jacket. I felt that way about N.D. Wilson’s first novel, Leepike Ridge, and I feel that way about his latest, Boys of Blur.
It takes a special kind of nerve to mix football, Beowulf, panthers, and grave-robbing into any kind of coherent narrative, let alone one with emotional tonnage, but NDW – like his father, never lacking in the Chutzpah Dept. – does both in Boys of Blur. It’s a parable and a romp. I do wish the Gren were allotted more “screen time”, and a few of the plot points could’ve used more time in the oven. Despite these faults, I liked the story enormously, and it grows on me even now, a week after finishing it. There’s something Wilson has always had going for him: staying power.
His writing, too. There are scenes rendered with such magic and perfection – boys gone rabbit-hunting through fiery cane fields, Charlie chasing a panther across a crowded football stadium – that they seem immediately aged, enduring as Tom Sawyer and whitewashing and fences.
I mentioned Beowulf. Wilson tips his helm more than once to that ancient saga, especially near the end. Boy, was that delicious. “Thanks to my pops,” Wilson writes in the acknowledgements, “for first introducing me to Beowulf and the growling rhythms of Anglo-Saxon, and for his own brilliant verse rendering.”
I’ll drink to that. Pass the mead.