What Are We Reading: Glen Duncan
This week’s What Are We Reading post comes courtesy of Michael Ford:
I came across Glen Duncan through his novel I, Lucifer, a story predicated on the idea of God giving Satan a last chance at redemption by allowing him to occupy a mortal body for one month. That body is that of the anagrammatically monikered and suicidal Declan Gunn, a frustrated writer. What lifts the book above a 30-day catalogue of depravity is the absolutely fizzing first-person narrative tone. Duncan’s writing often sounds a bit like Martin Amis’s, and indeed this novel bears comparison with Amis’s Money, another story about metaphorically selling one’s soul, in that the loose central plot concerns making a movie. The other remarkable element is the dedication Duncan shows in constructing the story around a literal interpretation of the traditional Old Testament architecture of angel choirs and the Genesis story. Jesus Christ – or ‘Jimminy Christmas’, as Lucifer calls him – makes a few earnest, and rather funny, cameos. You can’t help but root for the bad guy when the good guys are so sanctimonious.
The Last Werewolf is Duncan’s latest book and has superficial similarities. It concerns Jacob Marlowe, the last of lupus sapiens, who’s suffering from a philosophical ennui with life (he’s been ‘converted’ for almost two hundred years and the novelty is wearing thin). Like Satan, he’s done a lot of bad things in his life, yet he still manages to be a sympathetic and charismatic anti-hero. Marlowe’s about ready to give himself up to the werewolf hunters who’d happily plug him with silver, but everything changes in BIG twist halfway through that I shan’t ruin, other than to say Marlowe is given a sudden lust for life. There’s a great interplay throughout between Marlowe’s physical prowess and savagery in wolf form, contrasted with his human vulnerability and fear. In both young adult and adult fiction, vampires and werewolves are well-ploughed furrows. To his credit, Duncan’s book makes the subjects seem starkly original. It also contains the quite wonderful confessional line: ‘Reader, I ate him.’