Dying to Know You by Aidan Chambers
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
One day, The Author is greeted by Karl. Karl’s been set a problem by his girlfriend, Fiorella, who wants him to write about himself. The issue is that Karl’s dyslexic. Unable, unwilling and lacking in confidence to even know how to begin, he turns to The Author for help in finding his voice. And it is through the finding of Karl’s voice that The Author, still mourning the death of his wife, begins to rediscover his.
Poignant, graceful and elegiac, Dying to Know You took me a little bit by surprise. It’s beautiful written but so, so quiet. So quiet.
It’s a massively interesting book on a conceptual level. There’s an intriguing transtextual sense to it, in that we’re reading an authored text about an author who is both author and protagonist of his narrative. It’s an interesting tension, definitely, but one that’s almost physically painful and gutwrenchingly tender at others.
In Dying To Know You The Author yearns. He yearns for his lost love, for his voice, and for the occasionally forlorn hope that is Karl. And that’s something that, for me, led to an almost voyeuristic reading experience. It felt invasive and odd and strange. Not bad, though, I need to emphasise that. This is not a ‘bad’ book. I don’t think any really are though that’s a discussion for an alternative post. What this story is is different. Contradictory, odd and different.
In a way I think that Dying To Know You almost borders on self-help text. There’s some very didactic elements to it, but then there are some very brief, fragmentary images that are barely captured before the page turns.
It’s an odd experience, reading this book, but also a sort of transformative one as well. It is a title I’d highly recommend to those studying children’s literature and those interested in writing. But it is odd. It’s odd, odd, and strange.