Above reserves of thought which are the sap
that oozes like dark oil beneath our skulls,
we skate on surfaces, and do not tap
what can’t be cleaned-up if it ever spills.
Dwight Garner reviews “Netherland” by Joseph O’Neill (“The Ashes, ” NYT Book Review, May 18,2008) :
O’Neill, who was born in Ireland, raised in Holland and now lives in New York, seems incapable of composing a boring sentence or thinking an uninteresting thought, whether he’s writing about dating (“We courted in the style preferred by the English: alcoholically”) or the darker stuff that keeps us awake at night, like the nuclear plant just up the river (“Indian Point: the earliest, most incurable apprehensions stirred in its very name”) . O’Neill’s prose glows with what Alfred Kazin called “the marginal suggestiveness which in a great writer always indicates those unspoken reserves, that silent assessment of life, that can be heard below and beyond the slow marshaling of thought.” And O’Neill knows how to deploy the quotidian fripperies of our laptop culture to devastating fictional effect. There’s a moment in “Netherland” involving a father, the son who has been taken from him, and Google Earth that’s among the most moving set pieces I’ve read in a recent novel. The father hovers over his son’s house nightly, “flying on Google’s satellite function, ” lingering over his child’s dormer window and blue inflated swimming pool, searching the “depthless” pixels for anything, from thousands of miles away, he can cling to. O’Neill’s novel is full of moments like this: closely observed, emotionally racking, un-self-consciously in touch with how we live now.