Review: The Thirty-Five Timely & Untimely Deaths of Cumberland County

Not entirely sure how to write this review. Ideally you’d go buy a copy, then we could discuss it in the comments. That would be easiest. Still, nothing is ever easy…

The events may occur in two separate realms: the every day life of a small town Maine doctor, John M. Bischoffberger aka Bisch; a parallel world that may, or may not, co-exist within the mind of said Bisch.

The primary inhabitants of this parallel world, the old woman, the welp, and the thin man, are of a mythical nature. While reading i found myself trying to fit them into roles, assign them meaning, which it is entirely unclear that they have. Nonetheless, could the old woman symbolise time, the forces of nature? Could the welp be war, chaos, anarchy? The thin man, is he pestilence, disease, famine?

They talk of love and hate, of time, of a time that has come. Of a job to be done. In the end are they just the neurotic fever dreams of a mind that has experienced the horrors of war, and struggles to maintain a grip on a gritty rural reality?

It’s a beautifully written book, the writing is descriptive, rich and earthy, but it leaves you enough room to imagine. Space in which to find your fears. I don’t read a lot of fiction anymore, and i don’t watch any cinema, but this felt very cinematic – the pages playing out as a film.

Don’t want to say any more. Go read it.

Oh.One of the Unbounders made a reference to Cormac McCarthy. It’s a difficult comparison to live up to, but its easy to see why it was made.

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2 thoughts on “Review: The Thirty-Five Timely & Untimely Deaths of Cumberland County

    • there was another version in my head that talked about how it was a little strange for me to read a novel written by someone that i’ve known for so long (almost 30 years i guess). a photographer friend in tokyo always insisted that “every photograph is a self-portrait”, and in the same way a novel must end up reflecting the author… which raises the obvious question: how much of this version of Bisch is Mason?

      and the lynchisms (is that a word?) the welp in the ice, made me think of the boy in the radiator! the mysteries in the woods. the surrealism of the ending, which obviously ends things, but begs as many questions as it answers.

Wise words...

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