Stan’s Novel – In the Day – Is Now Available
Posted by Luke Neima on Thu, 23 Jan 2014
I’ve been meaning to write about In the Day for a while now. When Stan (Kevin Marman) first sent me his novel in December, I thought I’d read it quickly over the holidays and put something up by the end of the month. But I wasn’t quite prepared for what the book actually is. And what it is, is excellent. In every respect. And like any other excellent novel In the Day is one you have to read slowly – because there’s so much you need to pause and think about on every page; because so many sections and sentences demand to be reread, right there and then; because it’s simply too good to rush. You can’t help but allow yourself to take it in slowly.
It is an unconventional book. In the Day is not really about plot (although there is a lot of this, slow-growing and infectious, a backstory that starts as a breeze and turns into a whirlwind), it’s about character – about what it is to be a person with a mental illness. The book is a series of journals written by a man coping with the day-to-day realities of Borderline Personality Disorder. He faces the empty page and on it pours out compassionate portraits of the people about him along with the unspoken difficulties of his illness, the quiet challenges of the every day: from cleaning to working to structuring his time, from resisting the bottle and the razor to coping with the expectations of family and the loneliness of an empty home. And throughout is the inspiring struggle to persist in a world that, though fragile and always on the verge of hurt, is somehow still filled with beauty.
And the thing which makes this portrait so affecting goes beyond the fine writing and the technical skill – which are abundant. The book’s first principle is a deep-rooted, tender empathy for others. For all his problems, Tom, who is introduced as a carer for the mentally challenged, is deeply empathic. And when Tom loses his job, and the days become longer, lonelier, harder to manage, that empathy persists. Between the lines of each journal entry is the struggle of the narrator to turn that empathy inward, to allow himself to understand his struggle, to move past the pain and focus on the things beside it, the slivers of beauty he can always pick out of his surroundings, no matter how painful or banal they are.
The text, then, becomes something new, something between a sharply-plotted memoir and a heuristic excercise that the reader is party to. As the narrator fills out his troubled past in entry after entry, the reader begins to understand how the act of writing itself has become a means of filling the gap between the present and the past, a way of staving off a slide backwards. The narrator, at first so worried about what to put onto the page, struggling to find the right pen, the right word, slowly blossoms into explanation, discourse and action. And even at the darkest moments of the novel there remains an image of the narrator-cum-writer sitting behind the words, recalling the guilt, the collapses and the relapses, reliving despairs that have come but are now past. A narrator who has made it out, far enough from his failures to sit down and clear his head and write them down, point by point, brutally, honestly and poignantly.
Empathy, we learn quickly, starts on the page. Empathy starts with the first word written. Empathy starts with the first word read – so get a copy and start:
In The Day is now available from Longmarsh Press at £8.99 a copy, plus £2.00 p+p. It will be available from Waterstones, and all independent bookshops, by order shortly.
Each day has a mood – like each day has weather. Some days are bright, with a warm breeze. Some days are bright, but cooler. Some days are overcast, but mild and still. Some days are cold. And some days, as people say, don’t really know what they want to be: bright and warm, then clouding up, then cold, then bright again. On some days, there are storms. Like the weather, too, the mood of the day can never be known until it arrives. Forecasts get it wrong. A freak front sweeps in and shifts it around. A gale whips up, lifting the tiles, rattling the windows, raising the sea to a fury. Or a blizzard sets in and smothers, envelops, freezes down, suffocates. No day is the same – except in its span. It comes, it passes, it leaves. And then there’s the next one. What’s gone is gone. What’s coming is coming. What’s now is what’s now, and is all there is. What’s now is right here.
In the day.
There will be a launch party for In the Day on the 29th January, 7.30 pm, at The Bay Horse Inn, Cistern Street, Totnes, Devon. Please do attend if you can.