When it comes to perks of the trade there aren’t many things better than getting to read new books in advance of publication. You get a very special sense of privilege and buzz of the new. It’s thoroughly addictive; I recommend it.
When choosing which books I want to read I tend to go with my gut about what will interest me. However, occasionally, I feel I am
compelled goaded into reading a particular book… in the case of Crystal Jeans’s Lightswitches Are My Kryptonite (Honno) it was the promise that this novel would be one of the most outrageous I’d ever read which provoked me. How can you pass up something like that?! I had to read it – I desperately wanted to simultaneously to be completely outraged and also to be able to shrug off the claim to its outrageousness.
Lightswitches Are My Kryptonite is the story of Sylvester, a young man with OCD, who also has uncontrollable fantasies (many involving Kate Bush) he sometimes believes other people can see or hear. That the first chapter is entitled ‘The Pervert’ tells you something of the way the narrative is heading… it’s pretty filthy actually. And yes, it most certainly is outrageous. But, of course, it’s very much more than that. It made me cry with laughter and cringe/wince in equal measure; it’s stunningly written in deft and ebullient prose, and extremely tender. It’s also a very real and sensitive depiction of an OCD and anxiety sufferer.
The title represents one of Sylvester’s compulsions – tracing his finger around the perimeter of lightswitches (he paints them with green glitter nail polish to disrupt this urge). He also has a similar issue with rounded kitchen implements – spoons, glasses, mugs, bottles etc. On top of these irrefutable impulses he has many other quirks – including reciting the names of medication to calm himself down: “Omeprazole, Plenaxis, paraxetine, qualaquin, ziconotide, alfacalcidol. Like poetry. Like an alien language. Alien poetry” – and an uncanny ability to get himself into some very sticky situations.
Ahead of Lightswitches Are My Kryptonite‘s publication tomorrow here is Turnaround’s very own sneak preview of one of the sharpest and most surprising books I’ve ever read. This extract comes from the fourth chapter. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
(9781909983588, p/b, 224pp)